Before I begin I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Agents of change and peace
The theme for this event is very timely.
You may have noticed that there was an election in the United States recently where for the first time one of the major party’s nominees was a woman.
Unfortunately Hillary Clinton’s election loss to Donald Trump is now added to the list of ‘almosts’ when it comes to women as leadership change agents.
While I wasn’t inspired by some aspects of her campaign for President, I was hoping that Hillary would finally crack that highest, hardest, glass ceiling.
The fact that she lost to someone who has expressed such vile views about women makes her loss even harder to take.
Sadly we’ve too often seen many qualified and talented women miss out on leadership roles.
A recent example is Helen Clark for the United Nations Secretary-General position.
Whatever your politics there can be no denying our own former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was subjected to appalling treatment by elements of the media and our society when in office, which helped to cut her leadership short.
On the face of it women who act outside the political arena as agents of peace seem to have had far more success.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi have inspired millions, and so did Saint Mother Teresa before them.
This would lead some to say that peace is easier than politics, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Each of these women are, or were, very political in their own way.
For instance Malala is now a strong advocate for women’s education around the world.
After years under house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi is finally serving in her nation’s government.
Both of these women have also gone through terrible struggles to advance their cause.
It’s shocking to think that Malala was almost killed for simply trying to get an education.
And it’s the same when we look back further into history.
Even Joan of Arc and other great female Christian saints throughout history were thought to have been possessed.
Being an agent of peace is hard, just like being an agent of change.
I’m sure one theme that will come out of other speakers is about us being our own agents of change and peace, because it’s a very personal thing.
One thing I’ve found is that it helps if you aren’t ‘the first’, and there are role models to guide and encourage you.
These role models can be public or private, and I’ve been blessed in my life to have had several.
The vast majority of them have been, and continue to be, men.
What we can do
It’s also important to remember that we can all do productive things to help promote a more peaceful world.
One of the best things is to not pass judgement on others.
It sounds simple, but too often our lives make this a tough ask.
For me personally, one of the hardest things is staying disciplined when often I want to speak my mind and tell someone what I really think about them.
I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Of course Muslims are too often the victim of people passing judgement of what they don’t understand.
For example many people say that Muslim women are subjugated and inferior, but in the Holy Qur'an, Allah makes it clear that He created men and women as equal beings.
"He has created you from a single being; then of the same kind made its mate." (39:7)
Another thing we can all do is in managing our responses to confronting situations.
Too often we respond to things with a blame mentality, when a mindset of inclusiveness is a much better solution to the problem.
I think we can all agree that you learn a lot more when you listen than when you talk.
On that note I’ll sit down and hear the thoughts of the rest of the speakers.
Thank you very much for listening.