‘Spirit of ANZAC’ Tour 2012


Affinity Intercultural Foundation conducted its 7th annual Spirit of ANZAC Tour in April, 2012.

This year, our guests were treated to explore the culturally-rich places of Istanbul, Canakkale (which houses the Gallipoli Peninsula), Izmir and Bursa.

While the grandeur of Istanbul leaves one marvelling at both its natural and man-made masterpieces, , its size and population overwhelms the individual. It is mind-boggling to think that approximately 15 million people manage to lead an observably normal life in the heavily-populated city. One can note the huge strides taken in developing the city to make this happen. Many transport projects such as the underground tunnel connecting the Asian and European sides of Istanbul are progressing well. There is a beautiful synergy between the modern buildings like shopping and entertainment centres and the historic monuments that the city houses and that are being protected for future generations to appreciate.

Our guests were treated to many delights, of which only one has gained world-wide renown as ‘Turkish Delight’. The menu that Turkey serves up is as rich as it gets, with a variety of soups and other entrées, main course meat and vegetarian platters, main and side dish pastries,  dips, salads and, to top it all off, the Sultan of all desserts – Baklava. There are arguably more variations of Baklava pastry than there were Sultans throughout Ottoman History.


On the first day of the tour, we visited the historical Sultan Ahmet Square, the heart of the “Old City”, where grand monuments such as the Hagia Sofia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, Byzantine Cistern and Hippodrome still stand alongside the 2 columns – The Obelisk of Theodosius and The Serpentine Column. The vignettes are mesmerising and leave you pondering about how life was lived in this part of the world throughout the different civilisations that called it their headquarters.


One of the key highlights of the Spirit of ANZAC Tour was the visit to ANZAC Cove for the Dawn Service. This year’s commemoration hosted a number of Federal MPs, which included our Prime Minister. Her speeches delivered at both the Dawn Service and Lone Pine were moving and efficacious in capturing the tribute paid to the fallen. She also expressed gratitude to the Turkish Government’s hospitality in their unique approach to allow countries, who once upon a time came to invade their lands, to now  as they come in peace to respect their fallen.

tot2012_efesThe visit to the timeless city of Ephesus was breathtaking as always and the visit to the little house up the hill, in which the Virgin Mary was reported to have spent some days, was equally spectacular. The pilgrims who frequent the place seem to walk away overwhelmed and uplifted. This area, which is not too far away from the Aegean Sea, was host to a major civilisation some time ago. The city was very advanced for its time.

Witnessing the hypnotic Whirling Dervishes was a highlight when visiting Bursa. Their trance seemed to have captivated the audiences and taken them on a journey far far away. The visit to the historic ground of the Council of Nicea was symbolic of new beginnings because it was the place where the Christian world assembled to decide the theological fate of their faith.


On our return to Istanbul we visited the Writers’ and Journalists’ Foundation to hear about intercultural work inTurkey. We were able to hear about the opportunities and challenges Turkey was facing with its mosaic social fabric. We also had an opportunity to visit the Kimse Yok Mu (Isn’t There Anyone?) philanthropic organisation to hear of the relief work they are involved in as well as Samanyolu TV station. Samanyolu has been increasing its audience base and its services to include Kurdish Azeri language broadcasting. An official during our visit to Zaman newspaper, which is the highest circulating paper in Turkey, explained the current affairs of Turkey and the challenges it faced in trying to normalise democracy to a standard that  is on par with the leading Western nations.

Our guests also visited some educational institutions to review how the private and public school system is  faring and to hear their achievements, aspirations and challenges. It was a good opportunity to review some of the programs that have been implemented by Turkey’s Department of Education in an attempt to increase the  students’ academic performance.


The other key highlight of the tour were the home visits. These visits allowed first-hand exposure to the life of an ordinary citizen in Turkey. Hearing first-hand about their occupation or business, our guests were able to hear what life was like for them during their working day. This, along with how they perceive Turkey’s status quo and the progress it has made to date, allows for true intercultural dialogue, which would not otherwise present itself. We met an array of families from businessmen to academicsto solicitors, etc.. The broad exposure gave  our guests a more rounded experience of life in Turkey than what they may have had experienced prior to the trip and allowed them to hear about the aspirations of our hosts for tomorrow’s Turkey.

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Celebrating Neighbourhood Week 2011

Family and Friends Celebrate Neighbourhood Week

On Sunday, 11th of December, the Affinity Sydney team  visited Parramatta St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral as part of its annual neighbourhood day activities during the week of the Muslim festivity known as Ashura. After Mass, Affinity hosted the congregation for a sweet dish known as Noah’s Pudding (Ashura).

Sharing Noah’s pudding is a symbolic representation of the unity and essential relationship of humans to one another and to their Creator.

Preparing Noah’s pudding is a common practice among Muslim and Christian  people around the Mediterranean. People prepare the pudding at home and send a bowl to each of the neighbours in their neighbourhood. As tradition goes, the residents of forty houses to your east, west, north and south are considered neighbours. One has the responsibility of maintaining good relations with their neighbours regardless of what their religion or beliefs may be.

Altogether 250 dishes of Noah’s pudding was served to the congregation. Marion from the Cathedral said, “I thank you and your colleagues for giving us the chance to be part of your Ashura ‘celebration’.


On the same Sunday morning, the Wollongong Affinity team in conjunction with St Brigid’s Parish school in Gwynneville, kindly hosted Neighbourhood Day.

The event appropriately title ‘Noahs Pudding Neighbourhood and Friendship day’ attracted over 150 people from a variety of backgrounds and faiths from the area, including the Wollongong Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbury.

The day started with morning tea, and a variety of great homemade cakes. The welcome speech opened by Fr Bernard, was followed by Ms Janet Morrissey, explaining the importance of being close with your neighbours and breaking barriers between cultures. Affinity’s Miss Ruveyda Ozturk translated the Quranic verses related to Prophet Noah read out by Mr Fatih Ozdemir. She also gave a brief explanation of the story and significance of Noah’s Pudding. Finally a great performance was displayed by students from both St Brigid’s Parish school and Sule College Shellharbour campus.

As one of the grass root activities of Affinity intercultural foundation, the “Noah’s Pudding” celebrates the common heritage of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and what better way to do it, but through a Neighbourhood and Friendship day and having the tastebud satisfying Noahs pudding (Ashura) along with a good old Aussie BBQ.

St Brigid’s Judith Hurley said it was a great opportunity for people to see old friends and extend the hand of friendship to others.

Affinity Wollongong would like to extend our thanks to St Brigid’s Parish school for co-hosting this event, along with Edmund Rice and Catholic Diocese of Wollongong.



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Neighbourhood Week 2011

Neighbourhood Week 2011

“Neighbourhood Week” – Let us serve, share and celebrate between 5 – 12 December.

Sharing Noah’s pudding (Ashura) is a symbolic representation of the unity and essential relationship of humans to one another and to their Creator.

Preparing the Noah’s pudding is a common practice among Muslim and Christian peoples around the Mediterranean. People prepare the pudding at home and send a bowl to each of the neighbours in their neighbourhood. As tradition goes, the residents of forty houses to your east, west, north and south are considered neighbours. One has the responsibility of maintaining good relations with their neighbours regardless of what their religion or beliefs may be.Ashura day is celebrated on 10th of Muharrem on the Islamic calendar. This falls on 5th of December.


A fast-day among the Muslims observed on the tenth day of the month Muharram, and derived from the Jewish Day of Atonement, celebrated on the tenth of Tishri (Lev. xvi. 29, xxiii. 27).
The name is an Aramaic form of the Hebrew word “‘Asor” (the tenth), still to be found in a liturgical poem for the Day of Atonement (M. Sachs, “Festgebete der Israeliten,” 4th ed., pt. iv.88).

asureTHE STORY OF ASHURA (Noah’s Pudding)

It was thousands of years ago, a thousand years after Adam. The Almighty Creator, because of His Compassion to humanity, sent Noah to invite back to the one belief of God. Noah asked his people to forgo paganism for 950 years, calling them to the true way, the truth, believing in one God. But people teased him and called him crazy. Later his wife joined the pagans in their betrayal.
Noah suffered with his people for 800 years. One day God sent the Angel Gabriel to order Noah to build a ship. Inspired by God, Noah built the ship. God ordered him to take two of every creature, the believers, and his family in the vessel, except his wife who was to be left behind. Noah again told people about the flood, and warned them against it. But their response remained same.
The believers and animals boarded the ship and supplies were loaded. As all non-believers were drowning with their all vices, a long and hard journey was awaiting Noah and the believers, a long, tumultuous journey.
Days had passed, and food was scarce. They were facing starvation. No food by itself was enough to make a good meal. Noah gathered all the food supplies that was available and by mixing them, produced a delicious meal. The believers thus survived the famine. The very next day, the waters started to recede.
Today we call the sweet dish prepared by Noah as “Ashura” or Noah’s Pudding.


Ashura is a day of great historical significances according to Islamic tradition. On this day:

  • God accepted the repentance of Adam after his exile from Paradise;
  • God saved Noah and his companions in the ark;
  • God spoke directly to Moses and gave him the Commandments;
  • On this same 10th of Muharram, Job was restored to health (from leprosy);
  • Jonah was taken out from the belly of the fish;
  • The sea was divided as the nation of Israel was delivered from captivity and Pharaoh’s army was destroyed.


The making of ashura is a common practice among Muslim and Christian people in the Middle East. For Muslims, it is customary to prepare ashura at a certain time of the year. Christian communities throughout the Middle East prepare a similar sweet wheat dish, called hedik, amah or qamhiyyi.

Ashura prepared at home is shared with the neighbors. Generally people who prepare ashura send a cup to each of the neighbors. One has responsibility of maintaining good relations with their neighbors regardless of what their religion or beliefs may be.

950 year old Recipe for Noah’s Pudding (Makes 30 servings: for you and your neighbors)


  • 1 cup wheat
  • 1 cup white beans
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup peanuts
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 5 1/2 cups sugar
  • water (enough to cover)
  • topping: walnuts, cinnamon



  1. Soak wheat, white beans, garbanzo beans and almonds in water overnight.
  2. Boil the above ingredients; remove the outer shell or skin.
  3. Soak the raisins in boiling water until they soften.
  4. Put all the ingredients above (steps 1-3) in a large pot and boil.
  5. Add peanuts and almonds (peeled and cut in half) at this point.
  6. Chop the apricot into small pieces; add to mixture along with sugar.
  7. Boil for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Enjoy your pudding!

Feel free to try different grains, fruits and nuts.



‘Timeless Cities’ Study Tour 2011

Once again Affinity hit the year with one of its major intercultural events , ‘Timeless Cities’ study tour,  was  conducted on 15th of October this year, with four people from very diverse fields attending the ‘Travel to Timeless Cities’ tour.


The group consisted of 5 people including;

– Mr Peter Kerr: Executive Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

– Ms Janet Morrissey: NSW Studies of Religion Curriculum Author

– Mr David Symons: Multicultural Development Coordinator

– Mr Arthur Davis: Australian Defence Force

– Mehmet Saral: Co-founder and President of Affinity Intercultural Foundation

The tour was led by Affinity President Mehmet Saral. The team departed from Sydney airport on the 15th of October. The tour began in the Anatolian region of Turkey in the city of Kayseri. This city is historically known for being on the silk road and also comprises a number of relics remaining from the 13th century Seljuk period.


tot-camiiAfterwards the group moved on to Maras (to eat at the birthplace of the world famous Mado ice-cream), Gaziantep (to witness the incredible delicacies of this region), Urfa (birthplace of Prophet Abraham), Mardin (home to the Deyrulzafaran Monestry, the former headquarters of the Assyrian Orthodox Church which still holds service in Aramaic) and the city of Diyarbakir (known for its incredible fortress walls still standing from the days of the Roman Empire). From there, the group went to the famous region of Cappadocia, where the group were mesmerised by the settlement of the first Christians escaping from Roman soldiers. The eastern Christians, in order to escape from the Roman Empire, sheltered inside caves made from volcanic rock. The spectacular Ihlara Valley, which hosts the caves is on a 16 km long gorge cut into volcanic rock in the southern part of Cappadocia, following several eruptions of Mount Erciyes. The Melendiz Stream flows through the valley. What makes the valley unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants. Due to the valley’s abundant supply of water and hidden caves, this was the first settlement area of the early Christians escaping from the Roman soldiers. The whole canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut underground dwellings and churches from yesteryear

tot-ataturk-damThe group then flew back in to Istanbul, a city with a population of ~15 million, to capture some of the historical sites. Istanbul is known as an open air museum by many tourists who visit it. From the Topkapi Palace (the former residence of the Ottoman Sultans), to the Aya Sophia (the former headquarters of the Christian Church), Istanbul offers everyone a taste from some of the greatest civilizations that existed here in the past from the Romans,  Byzantines and the Ottomans to name a few.

To cap it off, the group went to dinner at a Turkish businessmen’s home where a first hand experience of another culture was had in the private space of another.Besides the touristic activities, the group also visited important places of the Hizmet movement, which is a civil society movement, headquartered in Istanbul. The group visited Zirve University in Gaziantep; Fatih University in Istanbul; Zaman newspaper (which is the highest circulation daily in Turkey with ~$1M sales per day); Kimse Yok Mu (a philanthropic NGO helping the poor and needy all over the world); PASIAD (Asia-Pacific Social & Economic Solidarity Foundation – who are Affinity’s tour partners in Turkey); Writers & Journalists Foundation (who are a think tank organisation addressing contemporary issues); Samanyolu TV network (which hosts 6 TV channels including one called Dunya TV, which broadcasts in Kurdish language).

tot-home-visitThe tour delegates were very impressed with the tour one of them found Turkey fascinating promising to return back there with their family one day soon; another was very impressed with Kimse Yok Mu, the philanthropic organisation which is helping the poor and needy from around the world; another said that if anyone wants to travel the world, they should first come to Turkey as it is where East meets West and where civilisations meet and the last of the group members was so impressed with the Sufi cultural tradition of Turkey.

Affinity President Mehmet Saral said, “As Australia is a multicultural nation, these tours are very important in showcasing the culture and religion of Muslims to Australians. It also enables Australians to witness a country where many great civilizations existed for centuries”.

Cultural Cooking Classes – Turkish Cuisine

Affinity Intercultural Foundation’s Wollongong branch held its first ‘Cultural Cooking Class’ event on the 24th of July in the Edmund Rice College Hall, in Wollongong.


The day brought together females from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds around the common theme of food and cooking. The program included live demonstrations of a variety of dishes from the Turkish cuisine including the delicious karniyarik (split belly), pilav (Turkish style rice and sekerpare (sweet pastry). Some guests had their first ever Turkish cuisine experience, others had the opportunity to learn to cook some of their favourite dishes whilst others had the opportunity to take part in the preparation of the food, getting comfortable about the process.


This friendly and unexpectedly entertaining session was followed by a warm lunch, which included the serving of satisfied taste buds.the prepared food as well as various side dishes. The lunch table was highlighted by long conversations and

The overall atmosphere of the hall was quite unique, with women quickly connecting with one another and sharing their various cooking tips, interesting cultural food experiences, and their kitchen troubles. By the end of the event there were a number of new friendships formed.