Finding Spirituality through Art in the Modern World

Affinity hosted its last luncheon of the year on Thursday, the 24th of November.

The event featured special international speaker, Professor Ori Soltes , from Georgetown University in the US, and was facilitated by ABC’s John Cleary.

The theme of the talk was ‘Finding Spirituality through Art in the Modern World: According to Jewish, Christian and Islamic perspectives’

Professor Ori Soltes spoke about the meanings gleamed from various artistic works across many faith traditions in the past, and how they depict common and unifying themes such as the oneness of the source, symbolism of light, naturalness of the diversity of paths to God, importance of going beyond self to finding God, ways of connecting with and experiencing God, role of understanding the other, loving and serving humanity as an essential element of loving and serving God.

Professor Soltes referred to individual artistic works as well as general trends and symbols, and thoughts of important philosophers and thinkers such as Merton, Rumi, and others from different faith traditions.

Overall, it was a highly engaging and interesting discussion and Ori’s expertise and insight was evident throughout.

There were many curious questions from the audience in the Q&A including architectural design, religious fundamentalism, and resources for further exploration.

The talk was recorded and is available for view via our YouTube channel and also linked below.

Ahmet Polat, CEO of Affinity, took the opportunity in his concluding remarks, to honour the work of John Cleary who has made such a significant contribution to the discussion of religion on national media.  John Cleary was presented with a gift of appreciation from Sr. Dr Giovanni Farquer on behalf of Affinity.

Mr Polat also announced the upcoming launch of Affinity’s new name and merger with a number of interstate dialogue organisations in February. Please be on the lookout for further details and invitations coming up.

Sincere thanks again to Prof Ori Soltes and John Cleary, and our lovely audience for their friendship and interest.



Professor Ori Z Soltes








The ABC of Diversity

On Thursday, 3 November, Affinity hosted Michele Fonseca, Head Strategy and Staff Development at ABC News for another interesting and popular luncheon.

Michele’s topic was the ‘The ABC of Diversity’ and she spoke about some statistics that reflect the diversity on our screens, challenges in improving it, what the ABC has been doing in this area, and lessons for others to take on board.

Although it is a challenging landscape, Michele talked about the importance of addressing the diversity issue so that our televisions can reflect our communities and the changing Australian society.  More importantly, Michele showed with solid examples that when it is made a priority, diversity can be improved and in very practical ways.

Jim Longley, Deputy Secretary of Ageing Disability and Home Care, NSW Department of Family and Community Services, facilitated the event.

Given it is such a hot topic, there were many curious questions from the audience, and Michele answered all thoughtfully and insightfully.

Michele received a small gift of appreciation from Karl Hartleb, Consul-General to Austria in Sydney on behalf of Affinity. Jim received his from David Bennett AC QC.

Of course, and as usual, the conversation continued well after the official close of the program as guests mingled and helped themselves to second lunch.



Jim Longley


Michele Fonseca



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Building Community Through Schools

On Wednesday morning, 19
th of October, Affinity hosted Jihad Dib MP (Member for Lakemba and Shadow Minister for Education), and Anton Enus (presenter of World News SBS), for a conversation on ‘Building community through schools’.

This was our second Morning Conversation event and there was again great interest from the community.

The guests were welcomed with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and friendly chatter as they served themselves breakfast from the traditional Turkish breakfast buffet and mingled with each other.

The conversation started with acknowledgment of country, introduction of the speaker and introduction to the topic by Anton.

In his talk, Jihad talked about how schools can be community hubs, and the importance of relationships with parents, other schools, and the rest of the community for the school’s success and wellbeing. Jihad drew on his experiences from Punchbowl boys High and the audience listened eagerly as he explained how he became a good locksmith or won the trust of the students and parents, or his own story growing up.  

Jihad also talked about his move to politics, some of the challenges he faces in parliament, how he responds, general state of politics and politicians, the Cronulla riots, his inspirations and passions, and the importance of staying true to himself.

Overall, it was a highly engaging and inspiring conversation and Anton’s insightful comments and questions brought out the nuances and depth that we got to see of Jihad and the subject matter.

Sincere thanks again to Jihad Dib, Anton Enus, and our guests for the great and greatly important conversation.


Faith, Freedom, and the Secular Sphere

On Tuesday morning 11th of November, Affinity hosted the eminent scholar Professor Mona Siddiqui from Edinburgh University.

This also marked the launch of our new ‘Morning conversations’ – pre-9 breakfast events with facilitated interactive conversations between experts and an audience of diverse professional backgrounds.

The event began with a traditional Turkish breakfast spread, and guests mingled, and enjoyed the breakfast until the official conversation started at 8am.

The conversation started with a live interview by Jane Jeffes, Executive producer, Religion and Ethics, ABC Radio.

The conversation touched on a wide range of topics including radicalisation, family relationships, types of secularism, practices of the media, individual freedoms and the role of religion in modern societies to list a few.

Facilitated Q&A followed the engaging interview, and the audience members had the opportunity to ask Professor Siddiqui their questions. The conversation could definitely have gone one, but most people had work to get to and Professor Siddiqui had to make it to her next engagement in Sydney.

Professor Siddiqui’s thoughtful answers and unique ideas, as well as Jane’s interesting questions made for a highly interesting conversation and we all walked away with the satisfaction of a morning very well spent.

Special thanks again to Mona, Jane, and the sponsor of the event.

The event was not recorded on video.