Recently one of the Muslim women students dropped in to see me. Nothing special about that; she’s been dropping in on her way to prayers since I first got to know her as President of the Flinders Islamic Association, a couple of years ago. We talk about food and study and all kinds of things. I often enquire about how Muslim students are feeling and invariably hear that they feel safe on campus. This is such a cosmopolitan place.
But on this morning the conversation turned for the first time to her confession that she wasn’t feeling safe. “What can we do?”
The London bombings have opened a new chapter of suspicion – who can we trust if those who live among us can behave this way? Anyone who looks middle-eastern or who is obviously Muslim has become the focus of increased scrutiny, bordering on racism.
I was delighted that one of our senior and respected academics, who happens to be Muslim, was prepared to see us at short notice, to share this concern with us. We talked for over an hour.
It struck me afterwards that we hadn’t “fixed the problem” – but we had shared our loads together, taking the sting out of the pain of it; and in the process we had developed bonds of friendship and support that helped us be grateful for each other, and a renewed determination to rise above the degradation of discrimination.
At short notice, I have accepted an invitation to attend an Asian tertiary student leaders/chaplains conference in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. I leave on Sept 9 and return on the 19th. I have been invited to participate in a multi-faith dialogue and I will be encouraging the formation of links between Australia and Asia. I am particularly interested in how what we understand as chaplaincy takes place in Asian cultures.