Experiencing love as a verb at the 2017 Building Harmony Ramadan Iftar Dinner

More than 120 people gathered to break bread in the spirit of love and friendship at the Iftar dinner held at Parramatta Mission.

Hosted by the Uniting Church and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, the gathering included local members of Parliament, police, religious and community leaders, representatives of other faiths as well as Uniting Church and Muslim members.

Keynote speaker was the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

In his welcome address, Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan said the Iftar Dinner provided a powerful symbol of love for neighbour.

“As we mourn and condemn recent terror attacks across the world, we know that love and understanding will always triumph over fear and hate,” he said.

“By coming here tonight, we offer a different narrative to the voices of fear and division in the Australian community.”

“We pray for God to grant us the strength to passionately pursue a more welcoming, inclusive and peaceful community where all may live in harmony – and encourage others to do the same.”

Affinity Executive Director Ahmet Polat said it was a privilege to see how Ramadan, the sacred month for Muslims, had become a time where all faiths and cultures came together.

“By being here tonight, we are not just simply sharing a meal, we are renewing a pledge to work together to fight discrimination and bigotry,” said Ahmet.

“All of us while embracing our faith most sincerely, should accept and respect the presence of other religious traditions and philosophies. Love is a verb, seeing that in action should be our dream.”

Mufti Mona

In his speech read by Mona Abdelraheem, the Grand Mufti called on people of faith to follow the message of all religions to love one another.

“In the Holy Bible it says: ‘Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4: 7-8).’

“Ladies and gentleman, thank God that in spite of the hatred we encounter, there are people in Australia who have the ethos of love and awareness.”

“Love is the key to changing hearts, minds and entire societies. The message of our faiths is clear. In that to be in service of others is the quickest route to spreading love.

“Let us make Australia the leading nation in promoting mutual love in our wonderful multicultural context.”

The fast was broken at the start of the evening by the Adhan, the Call to Prayer, sung by Furkan Sami.

Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College provided the melodic Qu’ran recitation (Chapter 55: Ar-Rahman. Verses 1-34) and translated a section for guests.

Primary school students in the Amity College Choir gave a heartening performance of five Australian-themed songs, including “I am Australian” with an Auslan interpretation.

Iftar choir

At the conclusion, floor reflections were offered by Member for Granville Julia Finn, Det Inspector Bradley Element from Parramatta Local Area Command, Uniting NSW.ACT Director of Mission Rev. Rick Morrell and Mehmet Ozalp Executive Director of Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA).

A vote of thanks was offered by Jim Mein from the NSW/ACT Synod and Mehmet Saral from Galaxy Foundation.

The Iftar Dinner was organised jointly by Affinity, and the Uniting Church Assembly and NSW/ACT Synod and supported by Uniting NSW.ACT.

It is one of three Iftar dinners co-hosted by the Uniting Church this year, with the final dinner being hosted in Brisbane on Sunday. The first was in Melbourne at St Thomas Uniting Church in Craigieburn.

Iftar eating

Story sourced from the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.

University of Wollongong Community Leader’s Iftar Dinner 2017

University of Wollongong, Affinity Intercultural Foundation Wollongong and Amity College host 5th annual Iftar dinner.

The University of Wollongong (UOW), Affinity Intercultural Foundation Wollongong (AIFW) and Amity College co-hosted their 5th annual Iftar dinner, at the UOW’s Innovation Campus on Monday 19th June. The event provided a platform to bring together community leaders from all backgrounds, cultures and religions, along with a number of teachers, principals and lecturers. The evening offering an opportunity to celebrate diversity and promote social harmony in our community.

Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset during Sawm, the fasting that occurs during the holy month of Ramadan. Iftar meals are also a symbol of friendship, understanding and social harmony. The event brought together over 140 community leaders from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Through the simple act of sharing a meal, attendees were able to learn from one another and strengthen connections and friendships.

With guests coming together in the spirit of understanding, the Iftar dinner provided an opportunity for attendees to reflect on the core universal values that unite as all, as well as recognise our differences as a source of strength. Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation said that these conversations contribute to a better community, society and ultimately a better humanity. While Iftar dinners have traditionally been shared between Muslim families, Bilal Aydemir, General Manager of AIFW stated that Affinity is proud to open these dinners to the wider community. “Fasting is not only found in all the major traditions but being a peaceful meal, it has the ability to really bring people together from all walks of life. With the aim of breaking down barriers, overcoming prejudices and misconceptions, it creates an atmosphere of understanding and learning where anything can be discussed, from religion to politics, to how to overcome some of society’s common problems… simply by sharing a meal” Mr Aydemir said.

Dr Melissa Thompson, UOW’s Community Engagement Manager said that UOW is proud to continue to host an annual campus Iftar Dinner as part of the University’s commitment to welcome all cultural and religious backgrounds, in the spirit of understanding. It is a reminder of the strength of our community and we hope this event provides an opportunity for a celebration of diversity and social harmony. We look forward to strengthening connections and building new friendships, learning from each other and reflecting on the core universal values that unite us all”. UOW alumnus, Abdullah Aksu praised UOW for teaming up with AIFW and Amity College to promote cultural diversity, harmony and understanding.

To see photos from the event, please visit the University of Wollongong website.

University of Wollongong Iftar Dinner 2016

The University of Wollongong (UOW) together with the Affinity Intercultural Foundation Wollongong (AIFW) co-hosted their fourth annual Iftar dinner, at the Terrace Restaurant, Wollongong campus on Thursday 16 June 2016.

 

UOW and AIFW were pleased to welcome many distinguished guests from across the community, business, education and religious organisations to share a meal and the spirit of the occasion.

 

Associate Professor SalihYucel, course Director and Lecturer at the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University delivered a thought provoking and humorous keynote address. Associate Professor Yucel reflected on his varied international career providing insights and sharing one of his favourite quotes “hospitality comes before hostility”.

 

The musical performances of the evening provided a sample of the rich cultural diversity of our community. Ivan Morris provided an amazing digeridoo performance and TufanCamurtay, Art Teacher, Amity College shared the hypnotising sound of the Ney (Turkish Flute).

 

Dr Melissa Thompson, UOW’s Community Engagement Manager said that UOW are proud to continue to host an annual on campus Iftar dinner to together with AIFW. “This is an important opportunity to celebrate diversity, encourage social harmony, create joint understanding, extend hospitality and strengthen friendships.” Dr Thompson said.

 

 

Student Leaders Iftar 2016

On Monday 27th June, Amity College in partnership with Affinity Intercultural Foundation hosted its inaugural Student Leaders’ Iftar Dinner

 

This year’s theme “Sharing experiences and celebrating diverse cultures” brought twelve diverse schools across Sydney and over ninety guests together. Each participating school and their student leaders reflected over the importance of such dialogue initiatives and the great and attainable hope such platforms occasions for our future young leaders. Both Amity’s BHS & GHS’s SRC leadership collaborated their efforts in this program.

 

Amity’s Executive Principal, Mr Deniz Erdogan explained the objective of this initiative “to instill in our leading students – the future young men and women of a cohesive and harmonious multicultural Australia – an authentic understanding of the “other” in their frame of reference – platforms like these are essential”.

 

Similar sentiments were echoed across the floor reflections like Ms Lara Cysnok from Brigidine College in St Ives who mentioned that “such an incredible opportunity would mean a wonderful world we will be starting off with” whilst Amity’s Adna Mahmutovic echoed “our similarities – founding blocks; our differences that edge & spark” – a hopeful visionary leadership quality in both these young ladies.
This set the benchmark for more similar programs here onwards.

Education Leader Iftar 2016

The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AIS) and Amity College, in partnership with Affinity Intercultural Foundation organised the 3rd annual Education Leaders’ Iftar (Breaking the Fast) Dinner which held at the Amity College Prestons campus on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016.

This annual dinner is aimed at bringing together educational leaders from around New South Wales representing Independent, Catholic and Government schools, and intends to promote the importance of cultural, religious and social understanding and harmony. In doing so, we aim to bring together individuals from different sectors in the community and establish the unity and solidarity that today’s world is in need of.

The theme for this year’s Iftar dinner was “Shared Responsibility: Weaving the community together in today’s polarised world”.

This event must not be mistaken for a fancy gathering of individuals to share a meal. On the contrary, it is an opportunity and responsibility, first and foremost for educational institutions, to understand and acknowledge that this event is aimed at weaving together and uniting the wider community. In doing so it should enable us as education leaders, being in such influential roles at our schools, to instill this responsibility in everyone around us – similar to the rippling effect created by a single stone thrown in a still, shimmering lake.