It's been a weird week for Bendigo. I wasn't really tuning into it at first. I knew there was disagreement by some residents in Bendigo to the proposal for a mosque to be built in Bendigo. I didn't really think much of it, I thought it was just one or two people with this view and that it's really no issue because everyone is entitled to their own opinions and views.
But then the Council meeting to approve the mosque was held. Who would have thought there would be a packed room of people protesting against it's development? Of course we are all entitled to have an opinion and have our voice be heard, but I think the thing that shocked me the most was the anger and disrespect and hatred that was being expressed in that room. And then to hear that Councillors were receiving threats and their houses were being targeted with black balloons, I was really feeling saddened that this would happen in our community.
I wasn't the only one that felt this way either. Many people I spoke to said they felt ashamed that this would happen in our town, some were disgusted and disheartened, some were upset and even considered leaving Bendigo if this is the way our community is.
I reflected on this, I reflected on the Bendigo I know and I reflected on all the generous people, the community initiatives that make a difference, the number of groups that support people from different cultures, the number of different religions that are practiced here and the acceptance of this in our community. I thought, you know what, what's happening here is not the Bendigo we know, and you know what, we know who we are. We know this is not us and we know this is just a small minority of people that are expressing their fear of the unknown.
Rather than get angered and disheartened by this, I decided to tune into who we actually are and this is what I now have to say:
We know who we are Bendigo! We know we are an amazing community of welcoming, accepting, respectful people who contribute so generously to others and to this town. This is who we are and we can stand tall and proud. I was proud to join the 200+ people at Hargreaves Mall this morning and tune into this wonderful inclusive community. Thank you to everyone who has spoken up about this. Let's continue to stand tall and proud about who we are!