Catholic Students from across Western Australia were given the opportunity to compete in the Speak for Faith Competition.
Contestants were asked to give a five-minute speech on a topic relating to the Year 11 and 12 Religious Education (RE) curriculum.
Sienna Ellison (Liturgy Captain) from Iona Presentation College chose to talk about a terrorism and the way young Christians can respond to this pressing issue in our modern world.
“11 September 2017 marks 16 years since 2,996 innocent lives were lost in the attacks in the USA,” Sienna said.
“I was only one year old when the 9/11 took place, but since then there has been 400 terrorist attacks antagonised by extremist Muslims globally,” she continued.
“In 16 years, almost 19,000 people have died. That means that for every year of my life 1,118 innocent people have died.
“For every day of my life three people have lost their lives. These statistics are shocking. But what’s almost more shocking is that that the youth of today have grown up not knowing a world that exists without terrorism,” Ms Ellison said.
Sienna added that while terrorism has been around forever; however, the terrorism that affects everyone is carried out by terrorists who operate under the banner of the Islamic faith.
“As young Christians, we have an obligation to respond to this issue through, recognising, responding with peace, loving your neighbour and trusting in God.
“The first step as young Catholics is we must recognise why terrorism is wrong and against our Catholic faith. In Genesis 1:27 it states that we were made in the ‘image and likeness’ of God conferring on us an ‘incomparable dignity’.
“On Mount Sinai Moses stated the 5th Commandment of ‘though shalt not kill’ and the Catechism states that ‘intentional killing is gravely sinful’. Thus, when these attacks take place, we are left dismayed and we ask ourselves how one can plan and carry out such horrible events as they are breaking God’s commandments and depriving people of their God given dignity.
Ms Ellison said that we must respond to terrorism with PEACE to protect all humans and their Human dignity.
“The secular world provides a wide range of responses, from Katy Perry saying we must ‘co-exist’, to some politicians suggesting the knee-jerk reaction of war and violence. Pope Francis counters both these views where he calls us to be a messenger of hope in the heart of human suffering.
“We must take stern, yet peaceful approaches to prevent such attacks, as seen through the Turnbull government’s increased funding of the ‘Foreign Fighters Task Force’ initiative, which uses criminal intelligence to uncover terrorist networks before attacks take place.
There is no doubt that terrorism is an act of evil; however, our Catholic response to this should be to love our neighbour, she said.
“Two months ago a van tore into a mosque as a revenge scheme on innocent Muslims. Such radicalised behaviour and such generalised hate goes against the second great commandment of you must love your neighbour as yourself. We find ourselves in a similar position to the man who asked Jesus who is our neighbour in Luke’s gospel.
“Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped the Jewish man who was beaten up, despite their differences. Similarly, we must love our Muslim neighbours to create an ecumenical force that can conquer bitter hate in our world. One of the greatest difficulties we have in responding to these issues related with Islamic terrorism is that it is hard to distinguish between the Islamic faith and extremist Muslims, leading to the assumption that terrorism is a natural expression of the Islamic faith.
“Such a misconception can be overcome if we lead by example, as seen after the Martin Place Siege in Sydney where a young Brisbane woman, Rachael Jobs, was sitting next to a Muslim woman on the train. She took off her hijab with shame and embarrassment after the attacks. Rachel ran after her and told her to put the hijab back on and that ‘I will walk with you’.
“Australians from all faith backgrounds were inspired and created the #illridewithyou campaign, where this was used as a hashtag over all forms of social media to spread the message of love and peace in such a horrific time. Like Rachel, we all have the world at our finger tips through Facebook and Instagram. If we start a hash tag or a trend we can inspire others to pursue what we are called to do as people of God; to love our neighbour.
“Finally, we must continue to trust in God. There is no denying that the state of the world at the moment is unsettling. However we aren’t the first to experience this. God has given us the greatest and most powerful gift of prayer. If we all take some time to pray the sun might come peeking through the dark cloud, we call terrorism.
“When terrorism seems to fill our newsfeeds, it is normal to be overwhelmed with this fear or terror. But terrorists want to strike that terror in our hearts. The day that terror engulfs us and makes us think irrationally, they have won. We must recognise what these people are doing against our faith. We must respond with peace.
“We must love our neighbour. And we must have faith in our God. We may not be the prime minister and we may not be a part of the UN. But we are the future Catholic generation and as young Christian people we can choose how we respond as we continue to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”