09:01pm Tuesday 02 June 2020

Research shows faith helps combat racism

Dr Kavindi Wadumestri said her research, carried out in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, provides insights for human service agencies that can be used to develop more effective policies and programs.

“I found that one way to achieve healthy outcomes for young people facing racism is to build on pathways of resilience that young people are already using, such as their faith and religious teachings,” she said.

“Young people who were experiencing racial slurs were feeling anger and wanted to retaliate, they felt it was right to stand up and defend themselves against such slurs; but people they respected offered a different viewpoint.”

During discussions, respected friends and people in the community talked about the fact that Islam was a non-violent religion and that religious teachings showed that it was wrong to hit back.

“These respected people put forward an ethical framework from their religious teachings for the younger people,” she said.

“In turn the younger people reflected on this, appreciated and valued it, and changed their views accordingly.”

Dr Wadumestri’s research, in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, explored how young Australian-Lebanese-Muslims living in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs experienced direct and mediated forms of discrimination.

Her interest in this subject was sparked by events such as the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, reports of young Lebanese-Muslims gang raping white Australian women, and the Cronulla race riots.

“These events and the public and media reaction to them helped create a hostile context for young Muslims and anyone of Lebanese-appearance growing up in Australia,” she said.

“Insights from my research can be used to develop policies and programs that are aimed at promoting young people’s resilience, tackling racism and strengthening young people’s sense of belonging to the wider community.”

For interviews or comment: Dr Kavindi Wadumestri, 0412 968 119.

For general media enquiries: RMIT Communications, Deborah Sippitts, (03) 9925 3116 or 0429 588 869.

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