As a Chaplain to one Australia’s largest high rise construction companies, represented by hundreds of workers from over 60 nationalities, my role was stealth until a need arose.
(Run for a friend ; was a suicide awareness campaign we rolled out over a period time to help people open up about their struggles)
The following story depicts why such campaigns are encouraged and that no one should be left behind.
The young man was an apprentice mechanic and he would make every effort to strike a conversation with me when I did my rounds. I also noticed a change in his demeanour and the tone of his voice, sounding softer with a sincere inquisitiveness about spiritual subjects.
Through other work colleagues it came to my attention that this young man was delving in Islam and he was being bullied at the same time by a manager.
Over the following weeks it was apparent that this young man was going through some dramatic changes. My concern for him grew when he started taking days off as well as hearing that the subtle bullying was ongoing.
My concern wasn’t just because I was the company Chaplain, but I know what it’s like to be a seasoned MisFit, I felt obliged to disrupt this young man and go the extra mile to talk about things that really mattered.
His search for meaning beyond just a job led him to Islam. He tells me of his troubled life and yearned for peace of mind, love and a place to belong. Clearly at the time his manager was intolerant, demeaning and very uncomfortable with this young man’s desire of human equity and respect.
Government and work place policy on discrimination, fair work and tolerance will never wipe away the insidious disease of hate and bigotry. Hate and bigotry have ways of going deep beneath the surface and twisting everything that is wholesome.
This manager was being justified by his ability to do the work allocated to him all the while destroying the confidence of a young man that was different.
My concern wasn’t just for this young man’s apprenticeship, I was also concerned by his radical transformation and religiosity. Who was speaking into his ear? Who was influencing him and what was their intention? How quickly was this young man prepared to isolate himself from his workplace and his friends?
I stopped him at one of the construction sites and we opened up about bullying, religion, family, values and anything else he was wanting to talk about. I then looked him in the eyes and just told him that he was deeply loved by God and that I cared about him.
I then encouraged him about his new found faith and gave him tips about being the best example of a Muslim by following two simple moral laws
1. Love God with your whole heart
2. Love humanity the way God loves you
By following these two moral laws, this young man was assured a path that would protect him from radicalisation and being bullied in the work place.
After discussing the simple challenge of what it is to be loved and to love, he looked me in the eyes and appreciated the best thing I could offer him which was a care factor with the pragmatic tools to get through another day.
My hope is that this young mechanic will spend the rest of his life searching for a life of significance and if converting to Islam is part of that journey, more power to him.
Fortunately that manager lost his job soon after and in all sincerity I hope he doesn’t get another job until he checks his bigotry at the rubbish tip and discovers significance for himself.
As a devout Christian and world citizen, I’ve been on this spiritual journey for over forty years and I’m yet to outdo those two simple moral laws I shared with that young man which has protected me from radicalisation while looking for and living a significant life.
‘Loving God and loving people’
For the nonbeliever among us, the laws vary just a little,
1. Love people the way you would like to love yourself
The value of backing a friend is immeasurable, and who is my friend?
Anyone within our sphere of influence regardless of what tribe they’re from.