Dean Sahu Khan, 66, and Dr Willy Senanayake shared the volunteering award in the 2016 Multicultural Canberra Awards. Both are member of the Canberra Interfaith Forum. They were presented the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. Other awards were also presented on 19 December 2016.
Khan grew up in Fiji and studied law in London before arriving in Australia in 1990. He was one of the founders of the Canberra Interfaith Forum in 1993 in Australia’s capital, Canberra. He was one of four members from four different faiths. Senanayake works to support Claire Holland House, a hospice for in patient palliative care.
Now there are representatives from 12 different spiritual traditions in Canberra – Baha’i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Pagan Awareness Network, Quakers, Sikh, Sathya Sai, and Sukyo Mahikari.
Through the forum, Khan said people of different backgrounds and beliefs have learnt they have more in common than they realised. “All religious conflicts arise out of all prejudice and ignorance and the idea behind the Interfaith Forum is to educate people to remove those misconceptions and to be able to defend each other and each other’s faith,” Khan said.
“What we concentrate on is the commonalities. We have to look at what is common rather than what are the differences. Love, peace, harmony and mercy, what religion doesn’t teach that?”
Photograph: Dean Sahu Khan by Elesa Kurtz in Canberra Times