Kim Chong (fourth) at the Western Sydney Women’s IntHERfaith Initiative addresses domestic and family violence - Photo: Kim Chong
On 31 October 2023, the Western Sydney Women’s IntHERfaith Initiative (WSWII), which I coordinate through the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, co-hosted an interfaith forum on domestic and family violence in Western Sydney. About 80 women and men attended the forum at ACU’s Blacktown campus.
Working with women through interfaith initiatives, I have discovered that domestic and family violence is a key issue in Western Sydney. This is the second interfaith domestic violence forum I have has co-hosted with women of different faiths through WSWII.
WSWII partnered with Australian Catholic University (ACU), SydWest Multicultural Services, and the Harman Foundation. Together, we organised a forum focussing on challenges to domestic violence prevention among different faith and cultural communities and efforts around men’s behavioural change. Focus on domestic violence is often on what the victim needs to do to protect themselves. This forum instead asked about efforts and challenges in prevention of violence among offenders.
I invited Hala Abdelnour, CEO and founder of the Institute of Nonviolence, to be the keynote speaker. Hala shared about her extensive experience and knowledge of male perpetrator behaviour, Men's Behaviour Change Programs, shame, trauma, and the systemic issues that prevent greater change to gender-based violence prevention.
The partners of the forum also assembled a panel of male faith and community leaders who engage with perpetrators, some as chaplains in the prison system, to speak about the challenges and efforts in the prevention of violence against women unique to their faith communities, and how we can come together as a community to address the issue.
All faiths promote treating people with dignity and respect. This issue impacts people of any faith. Together, faith leaders and communities play a key role in the support of victims, prevention of violence, education of loving relationships, and to speak out with moral authority against abuse, inequities and systemic oppressions.
Kim Chong is the Media & Community Liaison at the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Sydney.