This year, Affinity hosted its 14th Annual Friendship and Dialogue (AF&D) Iftar Dinner with parliamentarian regular co-hosts The Hon Victor Dominello MP, represented this year by Mr Tony Issa MP, from the government and the Hon Paul Lynch MP from the opposition. Held at the NSW Parliament House, the Iftar welcomed a diverse cross-section of Sydney society.
The flagship program commenced with the traditional Islamic call to prayer (Adhan ), followed by a recitation from the Holy Qur’an by Ibrahim Karaisli. This paved the way for the breaking of the fast.
The co-hosts then gave their official welcomes. Mr Tony Issa MP from Liberal party representing the Hon Victor Dominello MP started the welcome proceedings by describing the meaning of Ramadan and underlining the importance of the month. He said “Ramadan is not a month for people just to fast, Ramadan is month of forgiveness. Ramadan is where everyone should look out for each other and live in a harmony regardless the culture, the background, the colour, the religion”. Tony concluded his speech by stressing the importance of the values we cherish in multicultural Australia, “we, altogether make Australia a harmonious and coherent society for better living.“
The Hon Paul Lynch highlighted the significance of having events like the AF&D Iftar Dinner in the NSW Parliament, the epicentre of the state’s democracy. He pointed out that such events show the tranquillity of Australia’s cultural diversity and as a community “…how much more accepting of diversity we have become…”. Paul added that just a simple invitation for an Iftar dinner to a Member of Parliament “reflects the cultural diversity of the state.” and concluded by accentuating the fact that we Australians “don’t celebrate our Multiculturalism as much as we should.”
Ahmet Keskin gave the final welcome of the night. He highlighted how Ramadan has become a month for everyone “now we have other Muslim and non-Muslim organisations hosting iftar dinners throughout Sydney”. Touching upon the notion that the month of Ramadan is about sharing, he said “Ramadan is a time of sharing, a time when we gather around the table and share not only food but also good company, friendship and basic human values. We come together to share and we share already what brings us together.” He stressed we should “work together to remove prejudice, racism and bigotry & should sow the seeds of peace, compassion and respect. This is the path that Affinity has taken and through its endeavours is inviting others around them to join them on this journey”. He concluded by reminding everyone that “we know people of good-will, will always unite for a common cause. They will rally to uphold the common values that bind us all together. The future well being of our society is up to those of us in this room and beyond to promote the values of mutual respect, understanding and acceptance.”
After dinner, Professor Gillian Triggs (President of Australian Human Rights Commission) truly captivated the audience with an eloquent and thought-provoking keynote address. Her address titled “The role of Human Rights in Combating Racism and Building Social Inclusion” explored some of the factors that unite us as Australians, the beauty of our diversity, the need to foster social cohesion and our duty to build the courage to face racism and other issues that still exist on our path to become a better and complete multicultural country. She remarked “It is through these dinners that we are able to come together to celebrate diversity, foster awareness and increase understanding of the magnitude of cultures that exist in modern Australia, and the value that this diversity brings.”
Prof. Triggs emphasised the concept of social cohesion and its relationship to human rights, particularly racial discrimination by saying “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another”. She added underlined the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission by stating “These notions of equality, participation and empowerment are values that underpin our work at the Australian Human Rights Commission, including anti-discrimination laws in respect of disability, age, social justice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, race and gender.” Prof. Triggs, concluded her speech by accentuating the fact that we as people of all religious traditions, ethnic backgrounds, age and gender need to contribute however big or small so we could prevent racism within Australia.
(You can click here for an edited version of Prof Gillian Triggs’s full address published on Australian Human Rights’s website:)
Following the keynote, floor reflections were provided by Mr Jeremy Fernandez (ABC News 24), Mr Khalifa Almazrooie (United Arab Emirates), Prof Alan Knight (Head of Journalism, UTS), Mr Inaam Tabbaa AM (Industrial Relations Commissioner) with Mr Vic Alhadeff (CRC Chair) giving the vote of thanks to conclude the evening.
You could watch the Affinity Friendship & Dialogue Iftar Dinner 03/07/2014 program on our YouTube channel by clicking here…
This program was sponsored by; the UAE Red Crescent (Diamond), NSW Community Relations Commission (Platinum), Arab Bank Australia and Easten Engineering (Gold), Weld Truck Pty Ltd (Silver) and Galaxy Foundation (Bronze).