Diversity Iftar Dinner – 03/07/2015

Charles Sturt University (Port Macquarie) & Affinity Intercultural Foundation gathered for the third time on a dinner table on 3rd of July 2015. This wonderful event takes place every Ramadan for the past three years since 2013.

Members from various walks of life gathered to celebrate the breaking of the fast (Iftar) with Muslim friends from Affinity Intercultural Foundation as well as colleagues & muslim students that are on campus.

Ahmet Polat (Executive Director of Affinity) and Professor Heather Cavanagh (Head of CSU at Port Macquarie) were the co-hosts for the evening and extended their warm welcomes to the guests after the breaking of the fast.

In his welcome speech Ahmet Polat emphasized the importance of sharing a meal and breaking bread together during the dinner. –

“Each year we see the Muslim community open their hearts and their homes to the general public, as they invite friends from all walks of their life to be around the dinner table,” he said.

Current CSU head of campus Professor Heather Cavanagh said she has heard “a lot” about previous dinners, and was “looking forward to an exciting and engaging evening” at Sails Resort.

Assoc. Prof Mehmet Ozalp delivered the keynote address for the program. In his speech Mr. Ozalp stressed the importance of diversity & in what ways could embrace diversity.

After dinner the guest were offered baklava & kadayif for dessert while floor reflections from various guests taken. The program came to a close with a vote of thanks by Mehmet Saral (Affinity Advisory Board member).

Highlights from the night :

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Charles Sturt University & the Affinity Intercultural Foundation Iftar Dinner

Members of the Port Macquarie community gathered for an Iftar dinner, hosted by Charles Sturt University and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, to mark the Islamic month of Ramadhan. It was an opportunity for sharing at the 2014 Diversity and Dialogue Iftar dinner.

This was the 2nd such iftar dinner held in the Port Macquarie area and it was great to see new faces be amongst the attendees for this momentous event. Community leaders from across the Hastings and representatives from many faiths enjoyed a meal at Sails Resort. The Federal MP Dr David Gillespie and Port Macquarie Mayor Peter Besseling (former Wallaby) were also in attendance.

Dr Gillespie mentioned that although areas such as the Port Macquarie are relatively homogenous there is an increasing presence of new community members arriving and settling in the area. He remarked “This just adds to the area’s ever changing landscape, where people who have come from other parts of the world are now here to make this community and this country grow”. Mayor Besseling talked about his family roots and how his forefathers came to Australia to seek new opportunities. He also commented on his professional rugby career and how he chose to go to a place like Japan just to experience a different culture and that he was enriched by the time spent there.

Affinity’s executive director Mr Ahmet Keskin said it was a significant time of the year for the Muslim community. “It’s a time for reflection and sharing. Each year we see the Muslim community open their hearts and their homes to the general public, as they invite friends from all walks of their life to be around the dinner table.” Port Macquarie campus director Dr Muyesser Durur said the University was very happy to have the opportunity, in conjunction with the foundation, to host the dinner. “Part of the University’s role on the Mid North Coast is to encourage and support the sharing of ideas and ideals within and among the community,” she said.

For more information and for some photos, please refer to the article here

Diocese of Broken Bay & Affinity Iftar Dinner

Since its inception, the Iftar Dinner with the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay (DBB) in partnership with Affinity Intercultural Foundation has grown, welcoming guests from Affinity, the Diocese and the Hills District Muslim Society over a series of years now.

This year’s theme “Scared Hospitality” could be seen in the dialogue, conversations and connections throughout the evening, as Father Vince Casey welcomed all followed by the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) and breaking of the fast – Iftar dinner.

After being treated to some exotic Afghan cuisine, guests listened to the recitation of a short passage from the Holy Qur’an.

Afterwards, the panel session on the evening’s theme “Scared hospitality” began with Dr Trish Madigan presenting the Christian perspective and Mr Mohamed Baqai the Muslim perspective. There were many common threads on the very topic of hospitality as each tradition focussed on more than just being hospitable around a dinner table and looked deeper into the core being of our existence. Both speakers highlighted the many gifts and bounties placed on this earth, not so it could be consumed by one race or community but rather to be shared amongst all inhabitants, irrespective if they’re human or not. Both touched on Abraham’s hospitality and each gave examples of how Jesus and Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Them) exemplified the spirit of sharing with their fellow humans.

The two perspectives were welcomed and echoed by the attendees as Affinity’s Executive Director, Mr Ahmet Keskin, offered a vote of thanks to everyone involved in setting up the program and highlighted the need and importance of such events.

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Affinity Friendship & Dialogue 2014

IMG_7740This 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.”

IMG_7820After 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).


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Women of Faith Dinner & Awards 2012

wof_dinner2012_lastNine years on and still going strong, the 2012 Women of Faith Dinner addressed “Unity from Diversity”.

The title “Unity from Diversity” sounds like a clash on paper but a match made in heaven, if followed through in action.

The event was organized by Affinity Intercultural Foundation, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Catholic Diocese of Parramatta and the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT. The evening opened with MP for Auburn Hon. Barbara Perry giving the welcoming address. This was followed by readings from the Torah, Bible and Quran, touching on the themes about unity.

wof_dinner2012_8Following dinner,  Dr Helen Szoke, the Race Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, provided the keynote address.

Dr Szoke gave a remarkable speech that touched the spirit, heart and mind. Her stories of three women who have gone through extraordinary circumstances touched everyone, as their stories were intrepid, exceptional and inspirational. She also reflected on her recent trip to Turkey, on how she was inspired by women taking the lead in addressing various social challenges. She was also encouraged with the significant changes in the areas of education promoting mutual respect amongst the diverse ethnicities.

wof_dinner2012_3Talking about her role as the Race Discrimination Commissioner, made us think about our attitudes towards racism in Australia. A most suited keynote for the night, Dr Szoke truly touched on the theme of the night adding her ‘role is to identify race as a thing that is different but that is common’. She emphasised the role we as women can play in tackling issues of racism in Australia.

The keynote address was followed by 3 beautiful performances – two singers Dahlia Dior and Bronwyn Thompson and a poetry recitation by Mahsheed and Tahmina Ansari. Following the vote of thanks, given by Mary Pearson, the ladies got a chance to kick up their heels, unwind and be jolly. Dahlia Dior entertained the audience with her soul style, rhythmic songs.

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