For the past 7 days, I’ve been exploring the ancient land of Bhutan. Bhutan is not a country known for tourism, nestled within the Himalayas, it is a sanctuary to an ancient tradition and culture. In recent years, it has gained global attention for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy and for this reason, I found myself here. I was incredibly fortunate to be offered the opportunity to attend an Impact Safari program hosted by Small Giants exploring Leadership in the New Economy. This generous opportunity was made possible through the kindness of Global Leadership, an organisation that has played a significant role in the growth and development of Benevolence Australia.
GNH is a unique approach to development, which originated in Bhutan. It aims to strike a balance between material and non-material values, prioritizing the happiness and well-being of humans and all life. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced and sustainable form of development encompassing a range of domains- each making a vital contribution to our happiness. This approach balances modernity with tradition, material with spiritual, and economic with social, all within the broader context of ecological conservation.
Taking the opportunity to reflect on what it means to create an economy based on the well-being and happiness of society allowed me to appreciate the importance of traditional cultures and faith-based communities. These communities operate from a place of values permeating their everyday life. The individual’s well-being and that of every sentient being is considered sacred. Education, healthcare and the entire economy is built with the sacred in mind. This mindfulness is carried onto every aspect of the environment, for it is not seen as separate or something that we live off, but rather live with.
We see the embodiment of this philosophy clearly manifested in the Prophetic Way. Throughout every aspect of his life, including the menial and habitual, he met with consciousness and awareness. His regard for the individual, community and environment as well as the animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, is what makes the Prophetic Way an imperative message in our world today for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
However, the Prophetic Way begins with one’s internal state. The state of our world is but a reflection of the loss of connectedness to our higher purpose, and the only way back to some level of sanity which reclaims our humanity is a return to the ancient and eternal wisdom.
My visit to Bhutan has awakened within me a deep connection to the timeless message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace & blessings be upon him). To our collective human potential and the need to continue with this conversation so that we make inroads into creating a better world for the generations to come.
Throughout my trip in Bhutan I spent time contemplating the poem “The Bridge Builder.” I invite you to reflect upon it and in particular, to consider the question - ‘what bridge are you building that you may not see in your lifetime?’
The Bridge Builder
by Will Allen Dromgoole
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Photograph of the Tiger's Nest by Lorrie Meyercord.
Benevolence is honoured to be partnering with the Islamic Council of Victoria to deliver a unique leadership program: Spirit of Leadership.
SOL aims to deliver a comprehensive youth leadership and training program, designed to educate, upskill, and empower young Muslim women and men from diverse backgrounds to become active citizens and positive contributors to Victorian communities and Australian society.
What makes SOL so unique is that the leadership model taught is based on the Prophetic model, faith-based values, and an emphasis on self-awareness.
SOL is open to young men and women who:
• Live in Victoria
• Identify as a Muslim youth (18-28)
• Are currently involved in a Muslim social group, association or community center.
We highly encourage recently arrived migrants (last 5 to 10 years) and youth from diverse backgrounds to apply.
***Applications close on Sunday, 18th March, 2018!***
Feminism can be seen as an F-word in communities of faith, and given what’s said about women in many holy texts, feminists can be just as sceptical of religion.
Does religious belief encourage domestic violence? Cherishing marriage and belief in the forgiveness of sin are both good things, but together they can ensnare women in violent relationships.
Feminists have railed against the idea of a patriarchal God in the past, but third-wave feminism holds that the divine isn’t inherently masculine, nor is it detrimental to the wellbeing of women.
ABC radio national host James Carleton speaks with two religious feminists, Dr Sureka Goringe (National Director of UnitingWorld) and Saara Sabbagh (found of Benevolence Australia), who say faith can and does liberate women – but only if they can take positions of leadership in religious institutions.
Listen to the podcast
"As an Australian Muslim woman, my leadership journey has not been mine to navigate or own. Rather it has been shaped by global events, political views, racism and prejudice that has framed my path. Adding onto it were my struggles within the Muslim community where the ongoing gender discourse continued. Misguided religious patriarchal systems which perpetuate inequality and thus injustice only reinforced the misconceptions that existed in the broader community. And like every other woman, I faced these challenges in the backdrop of a patriarchal world.
I traversed this path for many years embracing the challenges as opportunities which only solidified my convictions. Having a sense of purpose and knowing oneself was my foundation. I did not give permission for the outside world to define me, or to take away my power and agency.
It is this inner strength born of an unshakable foundation and built on ancient wisdom and tradition, that has made me the woman and leader I am today."
Saara is an alumnus of the 2017 Williamson Community Leadership Program, a unique, experiential ten-month program by Leadership Victoria and the ICV - Islamic Council of Victoria for Muslim women.
The Muslim Women's Leadership initiative covers an outstanding selection of critical issues facing today's leaders, brought to life by seminars from renowned leaders, including field trips, case studies and other activities that culminates in an end-of-year retreat that will equip you to tackle contemporary leadership challenges..
In Williamson, you will undergo a unique learning experience addressing the emerging social, economic and environmental issues of the coming years and decades.
Applications close on 24th August, 2017. More information here.
I hope that the new year has commenced with contentment and gratitude for you and your loved ones. I hope you’ve had a relaxing and rejuvenating summer break and are ready to embrace the new year. We’re already two months into 2018, and I won’t even begin to ask how fast the year has already flown by!
2018 is a significant year for Benevolence as it marks ten years since its inception. So much has evolved throughout the years and I feel a deep sense of gratitude and humbleness to be leading such a diverse and vibrant community organisation.
As I reflect over the years, I recall the small and solid growth of our faith community -- from teaching two children on a Saturday morning in my lounge room, to establishing BeneKids weekend school with 170 students and a two-year waiting list! We have progressed from five volunteers to over 150 and seven part-time employees. Most importantly, we’ve created a space for new and reconnecting Muslims where they can comfortably traverse their faith journey with appropriate knowledge and support.
The Benevolence team is excited about the new programs for the year ahead. Our regular Monday night women’s class and Tuesday men’s class will see a change in format and presenters. The quarterly community dinners will also be undergoing a transformation.
A significant change for Benevolence this year is the formation of the new Board. I’m honoured to be working alongside a group of highly skilled and sincere individuals who will be leading Benevolence throughout its most significant growth years. Allow me to introduce the BeneBoard to you:
As Benevolence reaches this important milestone of 10 years, I pray that Allah (swt) continues to allow Benevolence to keep contributing to our society with sincerity, love and compassion. We welcome everyone to be involved with Benevolence by becoming members, joining our team of volunteers and attending our events. I look forward to seeing you all at our upcoming events, and for a very exciting year ahead!
Love and prayers,
Congratulations to our very own Saara Sabbagh on her recent Victorian Multicultural Commission Champion award! The VMC's new Multicultural Champions program acknowledges Victorians who have been instrumental in breaking down barriers between culturally diverse communities.
This award is a recognition of Saara’s contribution of 30 years of community service and supporting Saara in her leadership role.
Benevolence would like to take this opportunity to thank VMC for their ongoing support, and Helen Kapalos, VMC chair, in particular for her brilliant leadership in this space.
Our new schools program, #iBelong, kicked off today at City Cite for Hamilton and Alexandra College, presenting our new program covering student's understanding of Islam today, connected identities, and the importance of advocacy for minority groups.
Our new 'I Belong' schools program brings a focus on identity, the misunderstandings and stereotypes of Muslims today and the importance of challenging the media, and encouraging inclusion and diversity. It is an interactive program where a safe space is created and students are encouraged to ask and discuss anything.
Benevolence's schools programs are a great start to beginning these conversations. We have various programs, and can customise these to suit your school, students, teachers and staff.
Please contact us for further information via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone our office for a discussion on (03) 9913 8262.
Our conversations forum last night was centred on the challenges of finding a life partner in today’s age of social connectedness. It resulted in an impassioned discussion which yielded some excellent insights shared by the attendees. Some of these include:
It was evident from the discussion there is a need for these conversations to be had in our community, before these core issues can be addressed and redressed by society.
Methodist Ladies College visited Carlton Mosque to share conversations about the Mosque, pillars of Islam, diversity, stereotyping, popular opinion, statistics, fear, misunderstanding, terrorism, extremism, the distinction between fact from fiction in mainstream media and political discourse.
A great opportunity to step out of the classroom and out of the box to have these important discussions. Benevolence's schools programs are a great start to beginning these conversations. We have various existing programs, and can customise a program to suit your school, students, teachers and staff.
Please contact Dee for further information via email at email@example.com, or phone our office for a discussion on (03) 9913 8262.
The year is winding down and so are the Benevolence programs for 2017. It has been a full year of community events, education programs, partnerships and new initiatives. Some of the highlights include the Women’s Spiritual Retreat, collaboration with Muslim Aid Australia, and of course our community Eid celebrations to name a few. None of this would have been possible without the tireless efforts of all our Managers, Program Coordinators, IT specialists and the many volunteers making up the Benevolence family. I would like to thank everyone for their dedication, commitment and concern for the community.
To celebrate a great year, we will be holding a community BBQ on Saturday 25th of November. This will replace our usual end of year dinner, so please bring your family and friends and join us for an end of year celebration with the Benevolence community!
I look forward to seeing you all there!
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We acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which BeneHouse stands, and we pay our respect to their elders past, and present.
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