HomeWorkplaceA model city of peace and harmony

MUHAMMED HANIFF ABDUL RAZAK, Coordinator at the Multi-Faith Multicultural Center and Pure Land Learning College, shares how the organization has been involved in building social and cultural harmony in diversity in the city of Toowoomba in Australia. Their vision for peace is practical and based on the vision of their founder, the Venerable Master Chin Kung A.M. 

Toowoomba is a regional city to the west of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. It has several heritage façades, many parks, and a population of about 200,000. In 2001, the Venerable Master Chin Kung A.M. decided to make this city the home for Pure Land Learning College Association Inc. Since that time, as well as being a Buddhist Center, it has also become a Peace Advocate Center that brings everyone together, building a shared future for a better world to live in. In June 2013, Toowoomba was declared by the Mayor, Paul Antonio, a Refugee Welcome Zone.

Today Toowoomba is a city proud to have residents from eighty different ethnicities, beliefs, customs, and cultures, coming from Germany, the British Isles, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, Korea Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Congo, Iraq, South Africa, Sri Lanka, China, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan, just to name a few of those making Toowoomba their home. We have a school where 26 languages are spoken daily. It is a mini-United Nation in Australia. And the demographics are growing. This has sparked the eminent Venerable Master Chin Kung to have the vision of making Toowoomba a model city of peace and harmony.

 

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How the journey began: Friendship Dinners since 2001

What sparks a community initiative from this seemingly simple gathering over meals and sharing stories? Allow us to reflect some understanding of the basics and fundamentals that have helped us to make this journey possible. We hold on to the principles that:

⦁ Humans are bundles of potential.
⦁ The basic building blocks of life are relationships.
⦁ Educate and communicate, don’t teach.
⦁ Technology cannot replace human conversation.
⦁ Leadership reminds—authority tells.

The Friendship Dinners have created opportunities for conversation. They have created a safe space for all community members to be together. They have built bonds and fellowship, and as a result trust has emerged. Why do people want to journey with us, be a partner? They believe in what we believe. When we build trust, people are willing to take risks, experiment, and explore. We create a sense of purpose for others to journey with us.

 

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When we build trust, people
are willing to take risks,
experiment, and explore.
We create a sense of purpose for others
to journey with us.


The Toowoomba guidelines in promoting religious harmony and social cohesion are:

⦁ A strategic road map which includes core programs.
⦁ A tagline that is easily identifiable, “Everyone Matters.”
⦁ An organized platform, an action plan.
⦁ A Secretariat: the Multi-Faith Multicultural Center established to support the agenda.

 

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Our programs and action plan are crafted along the four cardinal principles of Sharing, Kind Words, Beneficial Acts, and Cooperation. These are at the center of the Venerable Master Chin Kung’s teachings, in order to connect and engage, and to enhance social flourishing. Examples of the four cardinal principles in action are:

Sharing: friendship dinners, harmony lunches, tea gatherings, harmony day, language and cultural festivals.

Kind Words: social values and ethics classes, faith sharing.

Beneficial Acts: sponsorship of medical research, community development programs, Clean Up Australia Day, working together, First Nations Endowment Scholarship Fund, Toowoomba Hospice Community Fund, Community Labyrinth.

Cooperation: collaboration in conferences, workshops, training, talks, and activities with government and other community and voluntary organizations.

We thrive because we believe in conversation not debate. We constantly remind ourselves that “The mind debates, the heart relates.” We educate rather than teach, we practice servant leadership, we adopt the 101% principle, we follow the simple tagline “Everyone Matters,” and we invest in our emotional bank.

 

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Examples of positive outcomes of our initiatives:

Toowoomba was designated a “Safe City” in May 2018.

A research project undertaken by Deakin University on “How Religious and Social Harmony Thrives in Toowoomba” made special mention in the finding that Toowoomba is the only city that has a working mechanism in place to bring religions together.

Attachment of an intern from Harvard University to look at our programs and activities that inspires religious and social harmony.

Finalist in 2018 State of Queensland Multicultural Award.

Inspired and assisted in the opening of a Multi Faith and Cultural Dialogue Center in the Shire of Moreton Bay by the Abbey of St Michael’s Church.

Publication of the 360 Sayings of the Scriptures of 10 main religions.

Publication of 360 Words of Wisdom

Acceptance of having a common prayer or affirmation by religious and community groups, which is read at services, functions, and on Australia Day.

A radio program on customs, beliefs, and cultures aired every Friday and Sunday over our community station 102.7FM. The program is into its tenth year on air.

The formation of the Venerable Community Group headed by the Executive Director, Toowoomba Base Hospital, in response to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. Thirty-five government and community organizations met via zoom every Wednesday to share resources and support.

Establishment of an advisory board made up of academics from Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and Australia that advises and provides direction for our agenda.

Pastoral care that provides support for families of different beliefs and practices.

Winner of “Community Group of the Year,” Australia Day Award Local Region 2022.

Defusing of tensions and conflicts, with two documented case studies.

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Photographs and diagrams from PURE LAND


 


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Muhammed Haniff Abdul Razak

Muhammed Haniff Abdul Razak

Mr. Haniff is the President and Founder of Pure Land Learning College Association Inc., Toowoomba, Australia. In 2010, he was invited by Professor Master Chin Kung AM to establish the Multifaith and Multicultu... Read More

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