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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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.