Home Iftar Dinners – 2012

This year’s Ramadan period saw an unprecedented number of guests attend an Affinity arranged home iftar.

The home iftar concept, a Muslim community initiative pioneered by Affinity in 2006, allows for closer interaction between the Muslim and non-Muslim members of our society. During Ramadan 2012, Affinity hosted more than 90 people in 19 home iftars. Participants included politicians, media personalities, faith leaders, community leaders, academics, councillors, other government officials and businessmen/women.

The cosy atmosphere of a home coupled with exquisite home-made cuisine, leads to sincere, fruitful dialogue between individuals. This engagement helps break down barriers and allows participants to “feel richer for the experience”. It also allows for the hosts to gain deeper knowledge of their guests’ roles in society and/or in their workforce, which leads to greater appreciation of the work that they do. This friendly transaction sows the seed for greater awareness and understanding within the community. Many times in these home iftars did our guests and hosts state that these opportunities to meet new people should continue and that Ramadan is a great time for this facilitation.

Below you will find an article written by one of the participants to provide their perspective of the gathering, followed by some testimonials:

RAMADAN IFTAR DINNERS IN SYDNEY 2012 PROVE POPULAR WITH NON-MUSLIM COMMUNITY

The Muslim community in Sydney has received positive media publicity for hosting a series of Iftar dinners during the 2012 Ramadan, in which people from non-Muslim backgrounds were invited to participate.

Affinity Intercultural Foundation, which is supported by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, used the opportunity of the Iftar dinners to build bridges with non-Muslim communities by inviting them to join in the traditional feasts, to share the cultural experience and learn more about Islam, different traditions, people and issues.

One high profile dinner recently held at the western Sydney home of businessman, Erhan Bozkurt, was attended by leader of the Opposition in the NSW State Parliament, John Robertson; Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Szoke; Vice President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jeremy Spinak and his colleague NGO Relations Manager, Lynda Ben-Menashe; Uniting Church Moderator, Rev Dr Brian Brown and his wife Helen and numerous members of the Turkish community.

The evening concluded with a frank exchange of ideas from all participants about how the Muslim community could continue to build constructive and positive cross-cultural relationships.

The gathering also heard from Zuleyha Keskin,Vice President of Islamic Sciences & Research Academy (ISRA) about progress with Australia’s first university degree programme in Islamic studies.  The full degree course is being offered in conjunction with Charles Sturt University, with the first graduates due later this year.  This may lead to Australia’s first home grown Imams down the track.

The host for the evening, Executive Director Ahmet Keskin, said the concept for the Iftar community dinners during Ramadan had developed and grown successfully over a number of years. He said this year there were 19 home iftars over a 30 day period with some 90 guests from diverse background attending a home iftar.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, who attended one of the dinners, said she was very impressed with the educational experience and the generosity of the hosts.

TESTIMONIALS

“The dinner on Monday was wonderful – I am indebted to Affinity and my hosts! The meal was fabulous and for the first time in my life had the dishes and accompaniments explained. It was also incredibly interesting to listen to conversation between a Jew and a Muslim about culinary traditions, rules and reasons. How enlightening! I posted the photo we took to commemorate the evening and received a large number of ‘likes’ and comments like ‘I wish we could do this in regional NSW too!’ And ‘This should be happening all over Australia!”

CC – NSW Parliament Legislative Council

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“We found it to be a most meaningful evening. Not only was the food superb – as I said, it took me back to my childhood days – but the way you structured the evening, with the focused discussion afterwards, made it very worthwhile. We felt totally at home… We look forward to more such great evenings – breaking down barriers and building bridges.”

VA and NA – NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

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“Thank you so much for opening your home to all and sundry for an Iftar dinner.  I very much enjoyed the evening, especially the excellent food and equally rich conversation.  It is no small thing to make a diverse group of people comfortable and I really appreciate the effort behind the scenes and your graciousness… I have seldom met a group that was so intentional in its building of bridges and I feel honored to be able to participate in that process, even if in a small way.”

TLH – Temple University, USA

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“It was a pleasure to be feted in such a beautiful home and with such esteemed guests.”

JS – NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

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“The initiative taken by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation to host Ramadan Iftar dinners for non-Muslims in homes of Muslim families, needs to be applauded as it builds bridges between our communities and contributes to better understanding of our cultural and religious diversity.”

SO – University of Western Sydney

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“My family enjoyed it very much and we left feeling richer for the experience.”

DL – Fairfax Media

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“…The grass roots engagement of community leaders such as through the Iftar dinners are a unique and memorable outreach that requires investment not only by the participating families but equally by the invited community leaders. I look forward to supporting the Affinity Intercultural Foundation in years ahead.”

SM – Sydney City Council

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Cultural Cooking Classes – Afghan Cuisine

Affinity Cultural Cooking Classes delight the tastebuds with Afghan Cuisine.

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In May, Affinity Intercultural Foundation hosted its inaugural cultural cooking class in conjunction with St. Kieran’s Church, Manly Vale. Showcasing Afghanistan was the theme of the night by presenting its rich tradition, intriguing culture and exotic food.

The program was launched with a short introduction into the exquisite Afghan culture, particularly highlighting the vast array of Afghan dishes, from the ‘basic’ rice and curry to the challenging mantus and oshaks. Mantus are small dumplings filled with minced meat and served with chickpea curry and garlic yoghurt drizzled on top. Oshaks are the vegetarian equivalents that contain leeks, shallots and spinach instead of mince.

A cooking station was set up, intending to guide those who wanted to learn the secrets of Afghan cooking. Nasrine, a proficient Afghan chef and mother of four, demonstrated the filling, folding and completion of the perfect mantu and oshak. It looked easy until we attempted it ourselves! Thankfully, after a few broken mantus and oshaks, we managed to become worthy apprentices to Nasrine!

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As the mantus and oshaks continued to be filled, the infusion of fresh spices permeated the room, teasing the already grumbling stomachs. And then finally, the main event arrived: Dinner. The mixture of superb food and great conversation gave birth to a wonderful evening between friends with different ethnic backgrounds, faiths and stories.

As dessert, a sweet Afghan dish known as Gilabee, was being served, a historic Afghan poem was read in Farsi (Persian) by Bilal Waheed. The soothing poetry resonated with the audience, touching the hearts of many.

The program came to an end with a vote of thanks by Kate Shaw. Not only did everyone learn useful tips for the kitchen but they were also invited into the Afghan world, immersing themselves in its culture, outfits and food. The night truly turned out to be a recipe for the fusion of hearts…

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‘Spirit of ANZAC’ Tour 2012

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Sydney
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’.

Wollongong

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.

WHAT IS ASHURA?

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.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCES

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 TRADITION STILL CONTINUES TODAY!

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)

asuremultipledishesINGREDIENTS:

  • 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

 

REPARATION:

  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.