Difference is no barrier to harmony

Outside a lepers’ colony in Navi Mumbai, India, is a small chapel. Painted in both Hindi and English on the outside of the chapel, it reads: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples”. The chapel welcomes people of all faiths, and is visited by lepers who have been rejected from society.

For these individuals whose own families have abandoned them, God is their only refuge. Religion doesn’t matter anymore and denominational differences are irrelevant. While the individuals in the lepers’ colony don’t necessarily believe in the same god, their common belief in the divine is enough to sustain them, to empower them and to enrich them in their destitution.

I have visited this chapel twice, on both my trips to India. The diversity that exists amongst its visitors is what makes the chapel such a special place. Had the chapel only opened its doors to lepers of a particular religion or denomination, it would not be the sacred place that it is today. Over many years, the chapel has been infused with tremendous depth, diversity and human experience.

This depth and diversity of human experience is what we are celebrating on Harmony Day (March 21), with this year’s theme being, “Many Stories: One Australia”. If you locate the word ‘harmony’ in the dictionary, you are likely to find two meanings. The first definition will describe harmony as a situation in which people live or work well with other people. The second definition will describe harmony as a musical term that occurs when different notes are played at the same time, making a pleasant sound.

Harmony, in the music world, is a pleasant, beautiful thing. It doesn’t simply occur when three amateur singers gather for the first time. Learning how to harmonise takes time. It requires you to listen to the other person, and to create your note in accordance with theirs. This year’s Harmony Day theme calls us to remember that difference is no barrier to harmony. As humans, we all have unique and vivid stories. Our backgrounds are diverse, and harmony, in light of this, is about encouraging individuals and communities to flourish in their uniqueness. Continue reading


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