Sanibonani – I greet all of you (Zulu)
NinJani? – How are you all? (Xhosa)
Our Multicultural Committee held a celebration of our cultural diversity at Fremantle Wesley Uniting Church on Saturday 28 October. It was well attended by folk from the non-Anglo communities with a fabulous spread of dishes from all over the world to share afterwards. There were at least nine different cultural backgrounds gathered in worship together.
I come from multicultural South Africa and now live in multicultural Australia with all of our immediate family, six children and eight grandchildren. We have been embraced by the First and Second people of Australia and are enjoying this eclectic mix of cultures.
Back in South Africa, there are eleven official languages, and many more different significant cultural groups. In Australia, however, there is only one official language, but according to the 2016 census data, there are over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes.
Nearly half of the Australian population was born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas.
While the most common countries of birth are still England and New Zealand, the proportion of people born in China and India has risen significantly with people from these two countries now making up 15% of the Australian population. The next most significant groups are from the Philippines and Vietnam. The ethnic congregations in our Synod are mainly from the Middle East, Indonesia, Korea and the Pacific Islands. And, of course, we have two Aboriginal congregations in Coolbellup and Waroona. The two mixed congregations I have served in Western Australia (Merredin and Geraldton) have members from Africa, China, India and the Philippines.
We are a diverse and significantly multicultural nation and Church.
Did you know that of the 6 million people born overseas, one in five (1.2 million) arrived in the last 5 years? Indeed, Australia is an extraordinarily generous immigrant nation. At least a quarter of the population of every major city was born outside Australia – 39% of the population of both Sydney and Perth are immigrants. This is considerably higher than capital cities around the world – only Toronto and Miami are comparable.
We are also a nation of young people. The average age in Australia is 38 years. There are about 100 nations with a lower average age but these are most poor without essential health care where life expectancy is quite short and/or where they have suffered the ravages of war. On top of our youthfulness, Australia, at US$50,000pa, has one of the highest GDP per capita outside of the oil-producing nations.
What does this all say?
It tells us that we are a wealthy nation of young people, with a significant immigrant population. We have a fantastic future. This is the best mix any nation would want. Immigrants are ambitious, they are often driven to seek better education and they invariably have a very strong faith in a supreme being, and, in Australia’s case, a large proportion of new immigrants are Christian.
This is a strong positive for the future of the Church in Australia.
It is encouraging to know that the Uniting Church has recognised this, and more particularly, recognised that the children of immigrants are growing up in a very different context to their home country.
There is always a risk in immigration, not only of losing culture and language but also of losing faith.
Steps being taken by the Multi/Intercultural ministries in the Uniting Church to address the needs and desires of the next generation are very encouraging – and the Lord will bless that work. It is the work of the Gospel.
A Prayer for Immigrants and the Work of the Church among Immigrants
Lord, we pray for those who have crossed borders to make their home in this beautiful Southland of the Holy Spirit. May you guide them and their children and their children’s children, to hold fast to faith in Christ. May they build houses and settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce. May they marry and have sons and daughters. May they seek the peace and prosperity of this nation. (Jeremiah 29 – Letter to the Exiles)
Bless the work of Multicultural ministry and they help people to hold fast to their faith in settling into a new culture in Australia.
A Prayer from Rev Bev Fabb
The following prayer is from Rev Bev Fabb (at the Induction of Rev Elizabeth Raine at Victoria Park and Districts Star St Uniting Church) is also appropriate for our diverse communities.
We pray for the community in which we live and those we meet in our daily work. Open our eyes to see and our ears to hear those who are around us, newly arrived migrants and refugees, families struggling to put food on the table, university students, elderly living alone, Aboriginal people, residents of public housing and those struggling to pay big mortgages, women and children living in fear of violence, those struggling with disability and mental illness. Open our hearts to our neighbours and enable us to be salt and light which transforms lives and communities.
We pray for our nation of Australia. We give thanks for the diversity of peoples who make up our nation. Teach us to live together in peace and work for justice, so that all may be treated with respect and have access to the resources they need to reach their full potential.
Rev David de Kock