Initiative Title: www.MuslimVillage.net (formerly IslamicSydney)
Organised by: IslamicSydney.com / MuslimVillage.net
Contact Details: PO BOX A92, Enfield South NSW 2133
Funded by: Self-funded through Advertisements, Contributions
Time Period of Initiative: Established in 2001
Number of participants involved: Over 6,500 registered members.
Target Group: Young Muslims with access to internet as well as non-Muslims
Project Description: MuslimVillage.net (IslamicSydney.com) is a non-sectarian, non- profit web site run by volunteers, and relies on the support and good will of Muslims in the community to survive. It was established to provide a focal point for Muslims living in Sydney, to bind the community together and be an extensive source of information for locals and visitors.
The website keep Muslims in the area informed about Islam and about other important issues in the community. It encourages Muslims to talk to non-Muslim members in their community to raise awareness of Islam as a peaceful and practical religion. It also encourages a strong community spirit through mutual understanding and tolerance.
The website also functions as a source of information for non-Muslims to learn more about Islam, thereby encouraging closer understanding between the groups. The forums on the website form an important discussion avenue for Muslims to address issues of importance to the community.
Successes and Challenges: The website has been tremendously successful in getting over 6,500 members for its forum and it continues to act as a central vehicle where, events, religious issues etc that are important to Muslims in Sydney are discussed on the internet.
What evaluation (if any) was conducted: N.A.
Initiative Title: Bi-Monthly Forum for New Muslims and Non-Muslims
Organised by: Australian New Muslims Association
Contact Details: Mohamad EL-Chami, 69 Croydon St, LAKEMBA NSW
Funded by: Donations from general public
Time period of the initiative: 2004-Present (3 years)
Number of participants involved: 20-25 (Average)
Target Group: Primary target groups are newly converted Muslims as well as those interested to learn more about Islam.
Project Description: Australian New Muslims Association aims to establish a permanent ‘open’ forum in which new Muslims and non-Muslims could regularly participate and learn about Islam. It wishes to spread the message of Islam through interaction, communication, and dialogue and encourages interfaith interaction and dialogue in order to make the relationship between different groups in the community stronger and more amicable. During the forum, there are lectures on Islam as well as question and answer sessions with the participants. The forum is mainly advertised through email and flyers and it is held on every 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month at 6pm. The 2nd Sunday generally consists of an Islamic film screening (Cinema Islam) whereas the 4th Sunday entails a talk on Islamic topics, followed by a discussion and question and answers.
The Australian New Muslims Association was established by young Australian Muslims to cater for new Muslims needs. It was borne out of the concern in the young Australian Muslim communities for the transition of new Muslims from their old faith to their new Islamic faith. It was also concerned about the level of information available in the community about Islam and therefore Australian New Muslims Association opened its door to non-Muslims who wished to learn about the Islamic faith.
Successes and challenges: The forum has played an important role in bridging the gap between Muslims and the general community. It has helped in expelling misconceptions about Islam and the Muslim community and has garnered some amount of support from the wider community.
One of the challenges as a support organisation is to make its activities accessible to and visible in the community. As there are many Muslim organisations catering to the public, people are not sure which one to approach.
What evaluation (if any) was conducted: No separate evaluation was conducted. It’s a continuing project and as long as numbers remain consistent it will be carried forward indefinitely.
Initiative Title: Home Encounters Network
Contact Details: Makiz Ansari
PO Box 496, Auburn NSW 1835
Tel: (02) 9702 0789
Fax (02) 9646 1150
Funded by: Initially funded by DIAC, now a self-sustained project.
Time period of the initiative: 2003-Present
Number of participants involved: Each group involves four Muslims, four Christians and one person acting as a facilitator.
Target Group: Muslims, Christians, Jews irrespective of ethnicity.
Project Description: The Home Encounters Network aims to expand an established network of people interested in continuing their interfaith experience through home meetings. The Network develops innovative projects as well as activities for members to maintain and increase their interfaith dialogue.
The project was comprised of six separate groups having monthly meetings for six consecutive months. Each group was made up of four Muslims and four Christians. A facilitator directed each meeting, which covered a preset topic from both Christian and Muslim perspectives in each meeting.
After each faith's perspective was presented, a respondent from the other faith tradition summarised the presentation in their own words and as they understood it. This was followed by an informal discussion and a question and answer session.
The primary objective of this interfaith dialogue initiative is to help induce positive long- lasting change in people's understanding of the 'other.' There is a need to formulate innovative community-based educational approaches to ensure that participants in Muslim-Christian interfaith encounters leave thinking differently, feeling differently and acting differently.
Successes and challenges: The idea of having house gatherings to facilitate learning at an individual level has worked and resulted in lasting change within the participants. The 'sustained dialogue' experience was a unique community-education initiative as it was a large operation and has the potential to expand to include hundreds of people and over time, thousands. The experience has generated profound understanding of the other within their frame of reference. Surprisingly, it has also led participants to better understand their own faith tradition. The key to success was the establishment of an atmosphere of trust in an informal setting of a home, training each participant to develop better listening skills together with a basic willingness to understand.
What evaluation (if any) was conducted: Surveys were conducted among participants and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Most of the participants loved the initiative, wanted to keep in touch with the other participants from different backgrounds and wanted more social outings.