In between forums, ACWAY is committed to engaging its members to further dialogue, facilitate resource and knowledge sharing, and build community. ACWAY Programming also consists of:
ACWAY Fellow Talks a fellow-designed and fellow-led initiative that was launched in January 2020 with the aim of promoting collaboration and virtual community amongst ACWAY Fellows in between in-person gatherings.
After attending forums and trainings, ACWAY Fellows are often buzzing with motivation and new ideas. During the implementation of their activities, they wonder “now what?” ACWAY Fellow Talks is an easily accessible opportunity for fellows around the world to be part of a growing, inclusive interfaith community. These video chats will include skill-building portions on highly requested topics, as well as a space for ACWAY Fellows to share their own projects.
The latest episode of ACWAY Fellow Talks was held on February 4, 2024 within the framework of the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week and was devoted to ‘Mental Health in Interfaith Spaces’.
Three fellows initiated the discussion followed by a group conversation. The recording will be availbale soon.
Reverend Kudzaishe, ACWAY fellow from Zimbabwe, spoke about the detrimental effects of toxic masculinity in Zimbabwe. In this context, societal expectations place a significant burden on men, discouraging them from expressing emotions, particularly during times of grief. Men are pressured to conform to traditional roles as family leaders and primary breadwinners, leading to mental health issues, including a high prevalence of suicidal ideation. Reverend Kudzaishe emphasized the urgent need to create safe spaces for men to share their struggles and advocated for challenging and debunking gender roles. The call extends to decampaigning the notion of specific roles for men and women, encouraging individuals to pursue their passions irrespective of societal expectations. The passage also acknowledges that women, too, have been conditioned to adhere to specific roles, emphasizing the importance of collective efforts to combat these deeply ingrained gender stereotypes.
Tamara Vukicevic from Croatia spoke about the intricacies of coping without relying on God. She shared a compelling story about pre-surgery coping, highlighting the personal, individual, cultural, (un)religious, and (un)healthy dimensions of coping mechanisms. Tamara emphasized the importance of a judgment-free and stigma-free approach to coping. The discussion delved into the question of whether atheists experience better mental health than their religious counterparts, revealing varying responses and noting the challenge of conclusive research due to numerous variables. Tamara acknowledged that people do not easily abandon their convictions, referencing the aphorism “There are no atheists in foxholes” to illustrate how extreme stress or fear can prompt belief in a higher power. Ultimately, the conversation underscored that coping is less about religious beliefs and more about mental well-being.
Dr. Yaqeen Sikander spoke about the intersection of religion and mental health, emphasizing its profound impact. Studies suggest a preference for individuals to seek therapy from therapists of the same/similar positionality, reflecting the influence of cultural norms. There exists a stigma attached to seeking therapy, and Dr. Yaqeen discussed how colonialism has played a role in shaping mental health perceptions. The conversation shifted to TIIP (Traditional Islamic Integrated Psychotherapy), which is evidence-based and focuses on understanding the nature of human beings and mechanisms of change. Dr. Yaqeen pondered on the challenge of bringing individuals back to the golden mean, emphasizing the concept of Ittihad as a means to achieve balance.
Community Action Grants
The purpose of ACWAY Community Action Grants is to build upon the unique ACWAY Forum training by providing support to active ACWAY fellows in their ongoing work to promote interfaith action and peacebuilding in their local community. Through this grant, ACWAY aims to provide active fellows with the financial support they need to develop great ideas and deliver community based projects that encourage interfaith cooperation, community engagement, and other social action issues as highlighted in the ACWAY Forums. The ACWAY Community Action Grants provide funding for delivering local, voluntary interfaith projects and initiatives by ACWAY Fellows.
ACWAY Marketing issues a quarterly internal newsletter to its members, highlight ACWAY activities, meet-ups, and opportunities to stay engaged.