Islam was the topic of discussion on Monday afternoon as more than 30 people gathered at a booked-out workshop celebrating Bendigo’s diverse culture.
The Islam and Bendigo workshop was delivered by local Muslims and covered topics such as women and Islam, Muslims in Bendigo, Sharia law, halal food, relationship with non-Muslims, beliefs about God and local mosque plans.
Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services education and community services manager Kate McInnes said it was the first workshop this year, following on from a similar series last year.
“We are really pleased with the interest and with the positivity about learning about different faiths and cultures,” she said.
The free session booked out early and Ms McInnes said people had called all week to see if there were places available.
“It’s great to have these events where people can get to know each other and exchange ideas,” she said.
“From our experience the Muslim community is a very open community and very interested in getting to know people and be a part of the community.”
Some of the feedback received during the workshop included, “it would be very beneficial for everyone in Bendigo to attend” and “events like these build a bridge between people”.
The Islam and Bendigo workshop was one of a number of events being held this week as part of the Bendigo Festival of Cultures. More workshops are planned for 2017, with the next scheduled for April.
LCMS president Abhishek Awasthi said the popularity of the workshop highlighted the need for them to continue, and encouraged organisations and schools to contact LCMS about organising tailored workshops for employees and students.
“LCMS will be very happy to work with community members and work with the organisation to have that scheduled,” he said.
“Let’s have an open conversation and come along and have a discussion with our local Bendigo community members from different faiths.”
A small group of protesters gathered across the road from the Bendigo TAFE Library, where Monday's workshop was being held.
One of the members said the group was protesting against the council supporting an Islamic workshop that discussed Sharia law during Cultural Diversity Week.
Three police members attended the peaceful protest.
A second group of protesters gathered in the same location after the event in support of Islam and the workshop.
Both Ms McInnes and Mr Awasthi said they were happy for people to protest.
“Protests are wonderful - that is everyone's right but having that dialogue is equally wonderful as well,” Mr Awasthi said.
Harmony Day: Change of venue
The Harmony Day event scheduled for Hargreaves Mall on Tuesday, March 21, has been relocated to Bendigo TAFE’s MacGillivray Hall in McCrae Street because of wet weather and forecast thunderstorms. The event runs from 11.30am to 2.30pm.
The Bendigo Festival of Cultures runs until March 26 and more information can be found at www.bendigofestivalofcultures.org.au