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.

“The mother of all Iftar dinners”: Affinity’s 2017 Friendship & Dialogue Iftar dinner returns to NSW Parliament House

On Wednesday 7 June, Affinity Intercultural Foundation held its ninth annual Friendship and Dialogue Iftar Dinner at NSW Parliament House, with over 330 guests in attendance. The evening began with a welcome speech from Dr Elizabeth Coombs, the NSW Privacy Commissioner as well as an Acknowledgement of Country from Stan Grant, renowned journalist and the ABC’s Indigenous Affairs editor. The night continued as MC Hugh Riminton graced the stage with his charismatic presence and set the night into full gear.

Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College delivered the ‘adhan’ (call to prayer) and the fast was broken with dates followed by a sumptuous three-course dinner. The evening was enlivened by a special musical performance from the Amity College Choir and Indigenous performer Walangari Karntawarra. The choir was complemented by a range of instruments, including the didgeridoo, wood sticks, the ukulele, xylophones, shakers and violin.

After dinner, the program began with speeches from the event co-hosts: the Hon. Ray Williams MP, Minister for Disability Services and Multiculturalism and the Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC, Shadow Minister for Women, Ageing, Disability Services and Multiculturalism, as well as Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

After a Quran recitation from Ibrahim Karaisli, NSW Police Chief Commissioner Michael Fuller APM took to the stage to deliver the keynote speech. In his address, he outlined his vision to focus on the prevention of crime, reduction of domestic violence and tackling terrorism and gang crime. The audience was left with a renewed sense of hope that our state was in good hands under Commissioner Fuller’s direction.

The keynote address was followed by a Sufi musical performance from the Anatolian Music Group, consisting of lead singer Dr Gazi Erkisi, Omer Faruk and Salih Resitoglou, who arrived from Melbourne to deliver a stirring performance. To accompany their singing, the band used two popular Middle Eastern instruments, the ney and kanun as part of their performance.

The evening proceeded with a gift presentation ceremony, where special Turkish gifts, sourced from Ahmet Polat’s cousin’s shop in Newtown, were presented to event sponsors. The event was a success thanks to the generous contributions of our sponsors, which included community organisations, universities, local businesses and individual patrons.

Towards evening’s end, four high-profile guests came on stage to share their reflections of the night. They included Australian navy officer Captain Mona Shindy, lawyer Peter Doukas, politician Chris Puplick AM and senior lecturer from UTS, Dr Kathy Egea.

After Dr Egea gave her reflection, Ahmet Polat came on stage to present a special gift to her as a token of appreciation towards her late husband Alan Knight, who was a former Affinity advisory board member and supporter of the organisation.

“Over the course of three years, we developed a beautiful relationship, like that of uncle and nephew. Despite the difference in our cultural backgrounds, we both shared the same values of love and respect for humanity.” he said.

The Vote of Thanks was presented by the Hon. Chief Justice Allsop AO, who remarked that one of the great privileges of living in multicultural Australia was, “observing and experiencing the way in which each new group of Australians feeds the intellectual life of this country.”

The event was concluded by former NSW governor Barrie Unsworth, who presented the concluding remarks. He commented on the grand scale of Affinity’s annual signature event, which served to bridge the gaps between different communities within Australian society.

You can view videos of speeches from the night below.

Welcome Speech by Dr Elizabeth Coombs

Acknowledgement of Country by Stan Grant

Co-host speech by the Hon. Ray Williams MP

Co-host speech by the Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC

Co-host speech by Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation

Quran Recitation from Ibrahim Karaisli

Keynote speech by NSW Police Chief Commissioner Michael Fuller APM

Hugh Riminton, MC

Floor Reflection from Captain Mona Shindy CSC RAN

Floor Reflection from Peter Doukas

Floor Reflection from Chris Puplick AM

Floor Reflection from Dr Kathy Egea

Vote of Thanks from the Hon. Chief Justice James Allsop AO

Concluding Remarks from Barrie Unsworth

Photos from the evening