After meeting Saara Sabbagh, founding director of Benevolence Australia a few years ago it quickly became clear that we shared many of the same values – particularly around the need to, as she describes it, ‘raise the bar of human consciousness’. We have since been privileged to work with Saara and her organisation on strategic planning, board development and mentoring. This month we asked Saara to introduce her wonderful organisation via a guest post – Gayle.
Since its inception in 2008, Benevolence Australia has been quite clear in its vision of bringing our shared humanity together through the timeless wisdom of the Islamic spiritual tradition, with the intention of raising the bar of human consciousness.
For the past 10 years, Benevolence has served the Muslim and broader communities with a firm and unwavering determination. Whether it’s creating an alternative space where people from all walks of life feel welcomed and a sense of belonging, or uplifting and striving for a higher practice of spiritual refinement, or indeed navigating the complexities that come with being an Australian today – Benevolence has evolved to continuously meet the challenges of our Australian community with our core values of Khidma (service), Rahma (compassion) and Ihsan (spiritual excellence) at the essence of all that we do.
In a time of increased polarised views, lack of moral leadership, economic and social divides, environmental disasters and social isolation, all with the backdrop of an ego-centric culture devoid of spiritual refinement, the message of Benevolence Australia found its calling.
Grounded in the principles of the way of Muhammad (peace be upon him), Benevolence has created a community where spiritual refinement and character development are integral to one’s identity.
Shifting the discourse on Islam and Muslims has been integral to our work. Muslims make up only 2.6% of the Australian population yet, according to a recent study on Australian identity, ‘51% of Australians had unfavourable sentiments towards Islam’. This is the case because the bulk of people’s knowledge about Islam and Muslims is derived from news and social media – not through experience, research or indeed engaging with fellow Australian Muslims.
It is with the intention of bridging this divide, of breaking down the ‘othering’ that has become normalised in our Australian political landscape, that Benevolence Australia’s programs reach widely into schools, service providers, faith communities and the public and private sectors. We deliver arange of programs and services on understanding Islam in an Australian context, as well as programs on building cultural competencies, understanding global politics, the history of the Muslim world and complexities of the current narrative on Islam and Muslims in relation to social cohesion.
The challenges of our time are many. However, it is not up to one person or one organisation to find the solution. Just as we, as a global community, have contributed to the darkening of our world, it is up to all of us to be part of the awakening of our humanity. There is no room for bystanders, we must all be responsible for shifting the many narratives that are no longer serving us. Benevolence’s contribution is the opportunity to rediscover our spiritual potential, to bring awareness to the oneness of our humanity, and essentially to raise the bar of our human consciousness.
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash.com