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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Women of Cultures – Wollongong 2012

woc_ztOn the 20th of March 2012, Affinity Intercultural Foundation with its partners hosted the “Walking Together in Harmony” dinner.

The ‘Women of Cultures’ evening is an annual event in the Wollongong social calendar. This year the Portofino Reception Lounge hosted the dinner which explored the theme “Walking Together in Harmony”. The organisers wanted to co-incide the theme of the dinner with the celebration of Harmony Day.

The main aim of the evening was to bring women of the Illawarra together, allowing people to interact with one another. This established a greater understanding amongst the women who attended to other cultures, helping eradicate misconceptions and take one stride in living together in harmony.

woc_lynnelearAfter watching the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Judith Hurley from the Edmund Rice College, shared her reflections on the performance by saying that, “…women tend to find it spiritual or rather relaxing, having a chat over tea or coffee. We may not have a ceremony over it but we feel better after being with our friends as we talk, listen and share our time with our friends and that is what we have done tonight over dinner.”

Along with the Japanese performance, there were performances from the Indian culture displaying the Bollywood dance. This was followed by the Turkish performers dancing to the Halay. These dances seemed to have attracted many ladies to the dance floor as the ladies joined in and danced to a couple of songs from diverse cultures.

Overall the evening was a success which attracted over 115 women from across the Illawarra region.

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Women of Cultures – Wollongong

womenofculturesWollon2Affinity held the first dinner for women in the Illawarra region, aptly titled the “Women of Cultures Dinner” at the respectable, well catered and always inviting Portofino reception lounge in Wollongong on the 26th of May.

The event was attended by distinguished guests from the Illawarra region and beyond including our speakers,  Hon Noreen Hay MP (State Member for Wollongong), Rev Mai You (Reverend at the Berkeley Nan Tien Temple), Ms Margaret Biggs (Manager Director and Community Engagement at TIGS) and Ms Makiz Ansari (Director of the Islamic Research Academy of Australia).

The night not only provided cultural awareness of each other, but it created a warm and amiable environment where connections and life-long friends could be made.
As keynote speaker, Hon Noreen Hay lit up the event by recounting her migration to Australia and the challenges she faced as a woman of ethnic descent, to make something of herself in her newly adopted land. She uplifted the ladies in the room about the extent of multiculturalism and its integral role in Australian society.

Recitations from the Muslim and Christian representatives followed. The Muslim representative recited from the Qur’an and the Christian representative read a passage from the Bible. The message was clear – greater understanding and social cohesion amongst people of different nations and cultures. This was further reiterated during the table discussions and the conversations readily flowing amongst all the tables.

The first respondent was Ms Margaret Biggs, representing the Christian Anglican faith.  She highlighted the importance of working hard as a key tenet of being an Anglican Christian.  Her defining message for the night was that children don’t see race, colour, religion or creed – they only see people as people, which reminds us of Scout’s famous quote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “there’s only one kind of folks. Folks”.

Reverend Mai You, representative of the Buddhist faith was the next respondent. She talked about the basic tenets of Buddhism with regards to human interaction between one another. The key point she made was that an affinity amongst people should not only be a feeling but should also be a natural state of being.
This means that a natural affinity between one another will occur when there is sincerity in intention and action.

The last respondent was Ms Makiz Ansari, the representative of the Islamic faith. Her speech captivated the hearts and minds of all listening to her.  Her speech was awe-inspiring and illuminated all as she talked about utilising literature to develop affinity amongst people, namely by great Muslim saints Said Nursi and Yunus Emre. The example by Said Nursi was that for an apple to grow and propagate, it required the Earth, water, sun and universe all working together symbiotically and in perfect harmony. The example of Yunus Emre was that we love the creation because of the Creator., meaning if we love the Creator, we love everything around us.

The Affinity team also put on a traditional Turkish performance of Henna Night. This performance was about a bride experiencing her last days of being single – the transitional stage from being a girl to a woman, from being single to married. The TIGS students also participated in this event, thus experiencing Turkish culture for the first time.

Mrs Semanur Kombeci, Affinity Wollongong Team Ladies Coordinator, concluded the night by talking about Affinity and the work done in the Wollongong area in the past few years. She noted that it was the first dinner of its kind in the Illawarra region.


Women of Faith Dinner & Awards 2011

wof9Women from all walks of life joined together on the 15th May, 2011, for the 8th Annual Women of Faith Dinner.

The event, organised by Affinity Intercultural Foundation, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Uniting Church NSW Synod and the Diocese of Parramatta, marks the annual coming together of women from various faith traditions to join in a night of socialising and reflection on the commonalities of womanhood from a variety of viewpoints.  Imam Fethullah Gulen, one of the great contemporary Muslim scholars said: “A women’s inner depth, chastity, and dignity elevate her higher than angels and cause her to resemble an unmatched diamond… Her Behaviour inspires admiration and respect… We hope that fortunate future generations will awake to knowledge, spirituality and truth so that women may once again become ‘the apple of their eye’”.

wof4The theme of the night was “Inspiring Women”, and there were certainly plenty of inspirational women amongst the group.  Ruveyda Ozturk, MC for the night, started the night by highlighting the Women of Faith Dinner as the one and only Interfaith and Intercultural women’s event hosted annually in Sydney. This dinner has long provided women from all faiths and cultural backgrounds the opportunity to network, interact and get to know each other on a social and spiritual platform. Romy Rutovitz, Seforosa Caroll and Zeyneb Briggs opened the night beautifully with recitations from the Torah, Bible and Quran respectively. The recitations each told a story of an inspirational woman from within each faith tradition, resonating with many in the room. Everyone was  emotionally touched and amazed by Muslim presenter Zeyneb Briggs ‘s courage and devotion to life as a believing and  inspirational woman after the several  personal tragedies she had endured.

wof3Federal MP Ms Julie Owens , MP for Parramatta, and State MP Mrs Barbara Perry,  State MP for Auburn were also present amongst the 220 guests. After three course meal was served, .   everyone had the chance to meet and greet one another, with some old acquaintances having the chance to catch up with old friends, whilst others making many new friends. The Hon Justice Virginia Bell provided an insightful look into the High Court System in Australia and how this was linked to her own inspirational story. Serving in the High Court, as the fourth woman to be appointed, is truly an inspiration to us all. With the Hon Justice Bell kicking the night off, the women in the room discussed their own inspirational stories with one another and really had the chance to reflect on this. The atmosphere in the room was truly wonderful and inspiring to see so many women mingling with each other.

Dahlia Dior and Stella Levinsky, our Jewish Performance for the night, really got the party started and there wasn’t a person left sitting after their amazing performance. Three songs later and the crowd had quite a workout! Basic Soul followed with their unforgettable hymns and angelic voices, treating the audience with their rendition of the World Youth Day song. Hallelujah! Our final act, Muslim performer Aysha Goknur, opened with a beautiful recitation from the Quran and finished with a bang with her amazing opera vocals, finishing with a song sung in German!

wof11With the night drawing to a close, Melissa McCurdie from the steering Committee provided a Vote of thanks, particularly highlighting the efforts of the Steering committee for their consistent hard work, year after year, in delivering such an amazing standout event, the only one in Sydney of its kind!    The evening continued with Mrs Hacer Saral, Director and head of the Affinity Ladies Teammaking a special presentation of recognition to Affinity Director Mrs Arzu Aydogan, who had brilliantly Project Managed the event with a marvellous accomplishment.

There was one final treat in store, a fun and interactive line dancing performance lead by Julie Talbot, which saw the dance floor full of energetic women, dancing with their new found friends and sharing in the spirit of womanhood.

Some Feedback from the evening were as follows:

wof6This is incredible, where have I been for the last 8 years? – Julie Owens, Federal MP for Paramatta

Best Women of Faith Dinner I have attended in 8 years – Barbara Perry, State MP for Auburn

Enjoyed meeting women from other faiths – Teresa

Highlight of the night was Jewish, Muslim and Christian women being able to talk and hang out – Julie

8 years I’ve been enjoying this event, and I will be enjoying it again next year! – Khalida

Absolutely wonderful, so uplifting! Highlight was the discussions around the table with the various women – Ronnie

My 5th or 6th year and this was the best!Spoke to many people who loved it and they will all be coming back next year – Sister Valerie

Thank you for your wonderful hospitality and efforts in bringing harmony across our faith cultures. Blessings and gods peace to you – Christine

Such a wonderful night for us all. I think the sense of community, love and respect in the room was exceptional. I know the people I asked had a great experience, one they won’t forget and can only lead to greater understanding of other faiths and believers. The love that pours out of heart is contagious –  Gill

It was the first time I attended . I found it immensely empowering and thoroughly enjoyful. Thank You once again for providing the opportunity for women of different faiths to intermingle –  Nazan

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Women of Faith Dinner & Awards 2010

img_2688We had a chance to tantalise our taste buds with delicious deserts, coffee and tea while we enjoyed watching the Bollywood dancers. There were many ladies who decided to try out their rhythmic style so they too joined the Boolywood dancers. Most felt comfortable with the moves as they seemed to enjoy it so much they wanted more!

Over 200 ladies from different faiths joined their friends and made new friends at this year’s Women of Faith Dinner, held on March 14th, 2010. Our guests were stretched from South to North to Blue Mountains to Wollongong.

The night started with a reading from the holy books – Torah, Bible and Quran. A guest presenter from each faith tradition provided insightful information about each other’s texts, enabling better understanding of the context of the themes.

Ladies had the opportunity to discuss and share their experiences about being an Australian woman during dinner.  Many found common similarities and challenges that each others faced.

img_2423The keynote speaker for the evening, the US Consulate Ms Judith Fergin talked about her experience on being a successful woman.

There were beautiful performances from each faith traditions ranging from poetic readings to faith related songs. Everyone was so excited to hear the beautiful voices of each performer as the audience joined in the singing and partook in some traditional dancing.

We then moved into our Coffee Chat session. We had three ladies from the Abrahamic faith traditions to give their perspective about; “If we were to change the world, where do we start and what do we do next ?” They shared their views on how we could make a positive difference in our society and expand that out to a global scale.

The night closed after such beautiful experiences and with new friendships.

The following feedbacks are just simple examples why we have many women join to this great event!“Just wanted to congratulate you and your team on the success of the Women of Faith Dinner.  The meal was excellent as was the entertainment. We had a beauty table of mixed faiths which is what it is all about and we deliberately sat apart from each other and hoped strangers would join us and it worked!  I thought it was the best I had attended. One of our groups hadn’t been before and was particularly impressed and keen to learn so much.  It was a great fun night. I went away feeling I had been with friends, more in tune with our similarities and with an increased understanding of the challenges of living in Australia as a Muslim woman.

“This is great opportunity to build bridges and break barriers between different ethnicities and religions and find similarities with one another.”
“It is one of the unmissable events of the year.”
“I attended due to strongly believing in mutual respect and friendship amongst people of all faiths.
“I wanted to be part of the celebration of women. ”
“This event gives me chance to meet my friends from different faiths.”
“I joined this event for the sake of GOD.”
“I joined the program in belief in that knowledge, love and dialogue would be shared.”
“To meet Muslim women.”
“Attended last year and enjoyed it so came again this year.”

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