This week is Harmony Week in Australia with the ongoing theme “Everyone belongs”. The week includes Harmony Day held on March 21st. In Australia it is seen as an opportunity to celebrate diversity, aiming to foster inclusiveness, respect, and the idea that people of all different cultures can make a contribution to society. I was interested to take a deeper look at the history of this celebration.
The United Nations proclaimed March 21st International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966. This was to mark the day in 1960 when police opened fire at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid laws. 69 people were killed and 180 injured. The United Nations called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. It is another of those moments that are held up to the light so we can see clearly and remember those human actions of the past that we never want to see repeated.
I can’t help but feel that the move to celebrate Harmony, while so obviously worthwhile, softens this uncomfortable reminder of the human capacity to label and create divisions as we ‘other’ those who are “not like us”. It seems like we are not always good at the difficult conversations and acknowledging the shadows that continue to exist in human interactions and behaviour. Yet those shadows are there every day for us, to see both here and internationally.
This is where we need to return to the importance of spiritual health. Attention to spirituality invites us into those deeper places within and between us, the places of both light and shadow. It creates the space for the difficult conversations, the honest conversations that can move us to seeing and even embracing our shared humanity.
Our soon to be released report (more information below), The Future of Spiritual Care in Australia: a national study on spirituality, wellbeing and spiritual care in hospitals, shows that many Australians believe spirituality offers peace, values, love, purpose and morality. These are essential ingredients for justice and for working towards the common good.
A final reflection. Seeing the shadow of our shared humanity, as we have done so much of lately, can be heavy to carry. There has been a lot of heaviness in these last few years. Last night I was lucky enough to attend the production of An American in Paris. A number of times I found myself in tears at the sheer joy of the music, singing and dancing. It was such a gift to receive that spark of joy and to be reminded that in the midst of it all, we need to create those opportunities to care for our soul. That’s what will help us to embrace our shared humanity so that we can create that world where “everyone belongs”.