Time to re-commit to community – it’s not easy

Time to re-commit to community – it’s not easy

By Soraya Kassim, Palms Executive Director

We are living in a world inundated with evidence of the maleficent impact of insecurities and unresolved trauma.  At a personal level, Australians are being confronted with the deadly reality of how this plays out in domestic violence relationships.  At a community level, this Reconciliation Week reminds us of the work that still needs to be done to allay fears around truth telling and partnerships of healing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  And we also steel ourselves for how Immigration debates might be played out in political discourse, as we wend our way towards the next Federal election.  Finally, of course, at the international level, we are aghast at the terrible violence and injustice being perpetrated in the service of binary political thinking which undermines social narratives of intercultural co-existence, in places like Israel-Palestine, Myanmar, India, and Ukraine.

Contemplating this is an affirmation of the imperative of the Palms vision of ‘people reaching beyond every barrier of culture, religion, nationality, gender, class and individualism, to cooperate in achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty’. 

This is a practical imperative if the world is to address the situation we are in.  And it is also a spiritual imperative.  In the words of Pope Francis (Fratelli Tutti 95) : “Love also impels us towards universal communion.  No one can mature or find fulfilment by withdrawing from others.  By its very nature, love calls for growth in openness and the ability to accept others as part of a continuing adventure that makes every periphery converge in a greater sense of mutual belonging.  As Jesus told us: ‘You are all brothers’ (Mt 23:8)”

It is precisely this spirit of openness, of vulnerability, and of embracing diversity as adventure, which is the essence of Palms.

Those of you who have accepted the call to placement as a volunteer know the personal benefits of the experience.  However the reality is that you are a privileged minority, as most Australians are not aware of the existence of Palms, let alone the opportunity it provides. 

It is in this context that the Palms Board, following our recent triennial Strategic Review, has decided to expand our reach.  This will be done by investigating options for extending our intercultural and other training, by enhancing the opportunity to learn more about our work through Encounter Tours, and by developing our links with partner organisations to achieve our shared goals of just international development and enhanced intercultural awareness and skill building in Australia and overseas. 

Over these last few months, since taking on the Executive Director role, I have begun discussions with some of you about how we can work together to achieve these goals.  I hope to be able to continue that process over the coming year with a view to developing more tangible partnerships, and certainly welcome all proposals and ideas.  The vision is as expansive as it is essential, but can only be achieved in collaboration.  I look forward to working with you on this.