Published in FAITH column on 19 February,2017

As an idealistic and naive adolescent, reading a myriad of books, newspapers and magazines about anything and everything provided great intellectual inspiration and insight, challenging me to think, question and understand the world around me beyond my own.

Believing in the power of the written word, journalism was my chosen career, hoping to engender new thoughts in others with ideas and beliefs for reflection. Instead of living obliviously in an insular, social bubble with people of like mind, I aspired to stimulate people’s senses and manifest awareness for action that could positively change the world.

Making a difference by embracing difference permeated my perspective. Disappointingly, many people did not want to engage with difference.

Since then nearly 50 years ago, many of the same problems bedevilling people’s lives are still extant, maybe even more entrenched and entwined now with too many wars and inequalities and poverty, unemployment and violence all too pervasive.

So much contempt for colour, creed, gender and sexual diversity, among other things, confronts making and embracing difference almost erroneous, but it is important to acknowledge Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

Internationally, political disillusionment and disdain for difference so permeates the populace with far right extremists garnering increasing support, that it demands vigilance and more significantly, faith in difference to ensure respect and reason reign sacrosanct in our midst. Making people think outside their comfort zones is not however, always easy.

Demagogues preaching fear and hate against difference must be exposed as destructive and delusional, encouraging people to realise difference enshrines individualism for applause not antipathy.

Recognising personal and societal difficulties in making a difference must not divert us from our endeavours, irrespective of the social outcome. We must never surrender faith in difference but reinforce and reiterate it as quintessential for a just and moral world; Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind...”

My Russian surname singled me out in school and at work as different, but I always felt welcomed and accepted, appreciating that the new premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, the first female Liberal premier at that, has a surname different to the Smiths, Jones and Andersons I grew up with; so too Queensland female premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Foreign names encompassing backgrounds and cultures of difference are now a norm in our political and social landscape, testimony that faith in difference enriches and enhances life experiences for us all.