Target Group: Faith leaders, diverse religious communities including Muslims
Project Description: The Hume Inter-Faith Leaders Network aims to develop understanding and harmony across the many faiths and cultures represented in Hume City. Members include leaders from a diverse range of faith communities including Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Sikh communities. They have conducted various interfaith projects including this year’s creative collaborative partnership with Hume City Council, and the community that gave rise to the design and development of The Garden of Friends. With funding support made available from the Australia Council, Parks Victoria, Myer Foundation and Community Support Fund, a modern courtyard garden was created at the VisyCares Learning Centre, Meadow Heights. The Garden of Friends project took its inspiration from a traditional Islamic courtyard garden, reflecting the diverse cultures of the local Meadow Heights community. The concept of the courtyard garden, with its 5 geometric designs, water features and symbolic planting is shared and understood by many cultural groups, particularly residents from Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon. The development of The Garden originally arose from the unique cultural and religious profile of Meadow Heights, a community particularly affected by global events such as September 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The purpose of the project was not only to reflect the diversity of cultures and faiths within the Meadow Heights community, but to create a place that would evoke an atmosphere of social harmony, peace and contemplation.
Apart from the Inter-Faith Leaders Network, the Hume Multicultural Issues Forum was also established to provide a voice for Hume City's culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Each forum has a distinct focus, these include transport, arts and cultural activities and problem gambling. Currently the Council is also committed as a partner organisation in a 3-year interfaith and intercultural project with the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University. At the heart of the Centre for Dialogue's proposal is a best practice model for the establishment of a locally based interfaith and intercultural network within the Northern Region of metropolitan Melbourne. In essence, the information gained from the project and the proposed establishment of the Northern Regional Network would further inform and promote the overall objectives of social connectivity, belonging and mutual respect.
Successes and challenges: The Inter-Faith Leaders Network has over the past 6 years played an indelible role in encouraging inter-faith dialogue as well as fostering activities to bring together various religious communities. The Council’s focus on inter-faith and inter- cultural activities is obvious in the breadth of activities undertaken in recent years.
What evaluation (if any) was conducted: N.A.
11.International Web-Audit of Grass-roots & Local Government Initiatives
This chapter is based on a web-audit of grass-roots initiatives in the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the US which aim to foster better relations between Muslims and Non- Muslims
Initiative Title: Te Korowai Whakapono: New Zealand Inter- Faith Network
Number of participants involved: 100+ participants in annual forum
Target Group: Groups that undertake interfaith activities
Project Description: NZ Inter-Faith Network is an interfaith network update which aims to support and publicise groups that undertake interfaith activities, projects and programmes that contribute to religious tolerance, public understanding of religions, and interfaith cooperation for peace, security and harmonious relations. The network operates on the principles of inclusivity, mutual respect, acceptance of difference and the autonomy of participants.
The network is facilitated by the Human Rights Commission as part of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme. The Diversity Action Programme, a ten point plan to strengthen cultural diversity, was adopted by a community forum at Parliament in August 2004 following the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in Wellington. Organisations are encouraged to register annual projects with the Diversity Action Programme that further the goals of the network
A religious diversity forum for the network is held as part of the New Zealand Diversity Forum in August each year. This year's forum was held on 27 August in Auckland. A national interfaith forum is also organised by regional interfaith councils in February each year. Some of the projects for 20007 included World Week of Prayer for Peace, faith community and interfaith group participation in Race Relations Day 2007, a series of seminars on Life Cycles as celebrated by different religious communities, and a Building Bridges Programme, among others.
Successes and Challenges: NZ Inter-Faith Network has played a significant role in supporting the formation and strengthening of interfaith networks and councils around the country, and in liaising with government on interfaith and ethnic community issues. The main challenge is to overcome the few cases of religious and ethnic intolerance in New Zealand that have focused attention on faith groups and relationships with wider society.