Neighbourhood Day (Ashura)

As part of the interfaith community Affinity has introduced several events of great significance to our social calendar. The International Abraham conference, Mosque/Church/Synagogue visits, seminars and Iftar dinners just to name a few. Each year, the interfaith community and government departments look forward to the aforementioned events with great enthusiasm.

We believe that the introduction of additional yearly events will further strengthen the already concrete relationships that have developed over the last few years. That’s why the Affinity Intercultural Foundation have  just last week included an additional event on to our yearly calendar that has been welcomed with open arms by the interfaith community.

Day of sharing & celebrating “the Neighbourhood Day” through NOAH’S PUDDING-Ashura

Observing a Middle Eastern tradition that celebrates the landing of Noah’s ark, members and supporters of Affinity from various faith communities proposed the preparation of a sweet dish called Noah’s Pudding to be served for guests and friends in the week January 27th to February 4th, 1007 (10th of Muharram in the Islamic Calendar).
Altogether 5 Neighbourhood Day events took place with a total of 255 Noah’s Pudding prepared for the attendees. The 5 events organised were as follows:
  1. Polynesian Day at the “Michael Wendon Leisure Centre” in Miller (near Liverpool) on Saturday, 27th of January. There were approximately 100 people at this function. It was a day when the Polynesian community of Sydney got together to have a BBQ and the community leaders were very pleased with our attendance.
  2. Thornleigh Uniting Church on Sunday, 28th of Jan. This day was during the Church Sunday Service and ~65 people attended.
  3. Parramatta Catholic-Muslim Youth Encounters on Sunday, 28th of January at the Parramatta Catholic Diocese Head office in Parramatta, where around 10 people attended.
  4. Auburn Uniting Church on Wednesday, 31st of January. This day was during the Church Wednesday Service and around 40 people attended.
  5. Jewish North Shore Temple Emanuel in Chatswood. Around 40 people attended.

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

History of pudding

It was thousands of years ago, a thousand years after Adam that a community was again on the threshold of a catastrophe.

For 950 years Noah called his people to the truth of belief in one God. One day God sent the Angel Gabriel to order Noah to build a ship. Inspired by God, he built it. God ordered him to take two of each creature, all of the believers, and his family, with the exception of his wife who had become a non-believer.

Supplies were loaded and the believers and animals boarded the ship. The water began to rise. As all of the none-believers were drowning along with their vices, a long and hard journey was awaiting Noah and the believers – a long, tumultuous journey. Days and days passed by, food became scarce, and they were facing starvation. No food by itself was sufficient to make a decent meal, so Noah gathered all of the food and mixed it together, producing a delicious meal.

As a result, the believers survived the famine. The very next day, the flood receded. Today we call the meal Noah prepared “Noah’s Pudding” or “Ashura.”

Ever since that day, Muslims prepare Noah’s Pudding every year in the month of Muharram, according to the Islamic calendar. In remembrance of what Noah and his people went through, this pudding is made by mixing dry beans and wheat together, and is then shared with neighbours and friends.

Ashura prepared at home is shared with neighbours. Generally people who prepare Ashura send a bowl to each of the neighbours in their building. 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.

Noah’s Pudding with Polynesian Community

On Saturday 26 January, Affinity executive members Mehmet Saral and Saban Izgun attended a Polynesian Day BBQ as a part of Neighbourhood Day in order to distribute Ashura (Noah’s Pudding). There were approximately100 people, most who were Saban Izgun’s Guardian colleagues from Silverwater and Long Bay Detention Centre along with their families.

There were a couple of Muslim families at the BBQ who knew what Ashura was and quickly snapped up servings of Ashura for all members of their family.

The Polynesians, who did not know what the dish was, were more precautious in trying the Ashura. However, some Polynesians who did try it loved it, whilst others decided to take it home. The day was great success in promoting neighbourhood day

Violence will not prevail in Auburn

Ash Wednesday was particularly significant for Auburn Uniting Church in 2006. Its charred hall is a sombre reminder of December 14 last year, when the building was burnt down in the early hours of the morning.]

The fire occurred during the aftermath of the Cronulla Riots, making front page news as many associated the incident with the religious and racial tension at the time.

A special Ash Wednesday service was held on March 1 at Auburn Uniting Church to reflect on the past few months and celebrate the first day of the Lenten season.

To show solidarity, members of the local Muslim community attended, including a group of girls from the Gallipoli Mosque youth discussion group who donated $500 that they had raised to help rebuild the church hall.

“When Auburn Uniting Church hall burnt down we were all so saddened,” said Nazli Akyil, one of the fundraisers. “Islam teaches ‘be good to your neighbour’. We thought we must put this into action.”

In return, members from the Auburn parish presented the girls with traditional Tongan mats.

Also in attendance was Mehmet Saral, Secretary/Director of the Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

Affinity’s main aim is to build bridges between faith traditions through inter-faith dialogue and education. The organisation, begun by young Australian Muslims in 2001, holds seminars to inform the general public about the Muslim community, its religion and culture.

Mr Saral said that it was a fitting time to come as the service fell within the Islamic month of Muharram, a time for visiting neighbours and building community.

During Muharram, Ashura Pudding (also known as Noah’s Pudding) is distributed as part of the process of visitation.

Those attending the service were offered Ashura Pudding on their way out of the church.

It was not the first time that the community had come together in the name of peace.

On December 16, representatives from the Uniting Church in Australia (including the Moderator of the New South Wales Synod, Jim Mein, and the national President, Dean Drayton) stood alongside Muslim leaders and parish members at the site of the fire to pray together and condemn violence. After the fire, the congregation had been in shock, but the December 16 meeting did much to restore community morale.

“A lot of people were very quiet and didn’t talk too much,” said Auburn parish secretary Taiosisi Sikuea. “The message was very clear that day that violence was not going to prevail; we have to retaliate with peace. And then we have to stick together and work this out together.”

That sentiment was echoed by Affinity.

“We want to show the Australian public that Muslims are not destroyers; we are builders of peace,” said Mr Saral.

“We want to show that we embrace our local members `from the Uniting Church who have gone through a tough Nazil Akyil presents the Rev. Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe with a period. We want to help them, just as they would help us if something bad happened to us. This is how the religious community should be working.” A committee has been formed to begin work on rebuilding the hall, but it will be at least 18 months before the building process begins.

“This is like a blessing in disguise for us in some ways,” said Ms Taiosisi. “It’ll be a lot of hard work to get the hall going, but it’s probably a chance for us to get a new hall. We try to look at it positively that way”.
Lyndal Irons

Smithfield Mosque opens its doors to Affinity

smithfield-mosqueopenday2On 9th April, Affinity Intercultural Foundation and the Smithfield Mosque held the Smithfield Mosque Open Day between 10 am and 2 pm. From Affinity, present were Ahmet Keskin, Omar Ouiek, Muhamed Cengic, Rifat Cakir, Adil Bayazitli and Musa Hodzic.

From the Bosnian community present were Bosnian community Mufti Shk Salih Mujala, Imam Jasmin Bekric, who was the organiser from the Bosnian community, Mr Osman Softic and the President of the Bosnian Islamic Society. There were also a few youths present but mainly the first generation Bosnian Australians.

They were curious on how this event would unfold. At the same time, they themselves have experienced something different for the first time in their life. Although, they have contributed greatly in helping out on the day, they were amazed that such an event could be organised by people younger than them.

There were 2 seminars and a traditional Bosnian lunch. The seminars covered the features of the mosque, make up of congregation and basic information on Islam.

During the first seminar, present were the Fairfield Police Chief Commander Ray King and another of his colleagues, Wetherill Park Police Ethnic Community Liaison Officer Uttara Khchao, Buddhist monk from Fairfield temple and mainly the first generation Bosnian Australians. A journalist from the local newspaper “Champion” was also present and the event was covered in the newspaper this week (19/04/06).

After that, we had the Noon prayer and a few verses were read out from the Holy Qur’an by Imam Jasmin Bekric. The guests witnessed the prayer in a very intimate fashion. They sat leaning on the side walls where the rows end. The Buddhist monk was taking pictures and was filming the prayer to what he said, “I’ve never experienced something like this. This is amazing.” We also had positive feedback from the police superintendent. Uttara Khchao said that he never knew that Islam was so beautiful and that these things should be done on a much wider scale. They hold conferences on various community issues within their network and said that he specifically wants to talk about the Smithfield Mosque Open Day. A question on apostasy was raised by the monk during the question time and he was satisfied by the answer.

The second seminar had about 20 non-Muslims. There was 1 family from the neighbourhood. They’ve also gave a positive feedback and some of them even attended our Panel on compassion. The neighbour said, “This was an eye-opener for me.” He also said that the people are starting to realise that the media is always trying to make Muslims look bad so they turn the people away from them.

All together, there were approximately 100 people of which were around 25 non-Muslims.

You may also want to read the Smithfield Open Day short article in the Champion local paper:

smithfield open day article



Auburn Uniting Church Visit

???????????????????????????????Muslim Youth Raises Funds for the Burnt Hall of Auburn Uniting Church on Ash Wednesday

On the evening of Ash Wednesday, the 1st March, 2006, Affinity Directors, Mr Mehmet Saral, Mr Ahmet Keskin and Mrs Amine Atalay arranged a group visit to Auburn Uniting Church. The congregation has observed the first day of the Lent Season in the Christian faith. The church hall was burnt down by vandals last December.

Auburn Gallipoli Mosque’s Girls’ Youth group had collectively raised funds with a sense of responsibility and solidarity for their Christian neighbours in the aftermath of the burning of the Church Hall following the Cronulla riots. Ms. Nazli Akyil presented the $500 donation on behalf of the youth to Rev Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe.

Mr Saral spoke briefly on the significance of the lunar month of Muharram in the Islamic Calender, reflecting over historical Day of Ashura. “It is Muslim culture to distribute Noah’s pudding to neighbours and fast on the 10th day of Muharram. This gesture is especially important at the time of hardship” remarked Mr Saral.

Noah’s Pudding (ashura) is a sweet dish reportedly cooked on the day when Noah (p) and his followers first landed after the flood. The pudding was distributed by Affinity members to the church congregation. In return, church ladies presented a hand made traditional Tongan wall carpet as a gesture of their appreciation of the Muslim Youth and Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

Mrs Atalay remarked “When a community in our very neighbourhood is in grief, irrespective of how small is the contribution, we are here for you in assistance and support.”