“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

Internship Opportunities

We are seeking applications for our internship program.

Unique organisation, nice perks, amazing team, extensive experience, meaningful work, flexible days. Our interns do not get coffee or do photocopying but are involved in the all stages of decision making and execution for our upcoming projects. Depending on experience, interns may manage a project or an activity of the organisation.

All undergraduate and postgraduate students are eligible to apply. The length of the internship is flexible and negotiable.  See the different internships below and to apply, send a CV and covering letter to info@affinity.org.au.

Project internship

The project intern works alongside with staff on all aspects of our various projects.

Duties may include:

  • Reaching prominent government, corporate and media officials, opinion-makers, academics, diplomats, clergy and other civic leaders
  • Marketing
  • Making invitee lists, preparing and sending hard copy and email invitations
  • Maintaining contacts database
  • Checking the venue ready for the Forum and working with catering
  • Working with Photographers and videographers
  • Editing speeches and interviews, preparing news updates for the website working with the webmaster
  • Following events in NSW related to our field
  • Ability to prepare press releases and contact with media is preferred
  • Writing news items and producing content for our website
  • Running social media accounts

Web-design Internship

The primary responsibility of the design intern is to assist with web design and website management.

Duties include:

  • Developing the look, feel and performance of the site
  • Assisting in the development & concept of the site.
  • Optimizing, editing and uploading images for web use
  • Content collection and input
  • Maintenance & Support Requests

 

You will need:

  • An eye toward detail, flexibility and usability
  • Excellent creative / aesthetic / artistic judgment
  • Understanding of graphic optimization and browser limitations
  • Knowledge of Web usability and navigation standards
  • To be comfortable with Javascript
  • PHP knowledge or the desire to learn.
  • Flexible, responsible, and ready to grow
  • Knowledge of HTML and CSS

 

Public relations internship

Duties may include:

  • Writing, editing and distributing a wide variety of PR materials, including press releases, media alerts, calendar listings and pitch letters
  • Designing, assembling and distributing press kits
  • Creating, updating and maintaining specific media lists
  • Participating in creative brainstorming sessions
  • Delivering pitch materials to press members
  • Monitoring media coverage for clients and helping with monthly status reports
  • Administrative duties associated with PR account management, as needed
  • Public Relations or related field of study is an asset for the candidate.

If you have any queries, we encourage you to get in contact via the email address above.

AFFINITY’S POSITION ON THE DEVELOPMENTS IN TURKEY

19/07/2016

 

On Friday 15 July 2016, Turkey witnessed a coup attempt by sections of the military, which has left hundreds dead and over a thousand injured. We pray for God’s mercy on the deceased and express our sincerest condolences to their families and loved ones.

As Affinity Intercultural Foundation, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey and reiterate that there is no place for military interventions in a democracy.

While admitting the scarcity of information at the early hours of the night, President Erdogan and figures close to him were quick to lay blame on the Hizmet (“service”) Movement, a global faith-inspired civic movement inspired by the teachings of Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen.

This is not surprising as President Erdogan has previously blamed oppositional developments in Turkey on the Hizmet Movement and, as a pretext to purging state and civil society, claims that the Hizmet is acting as a “parallel state” aiming to take over the country.

Hizmet-affiliated or supporting organisations and persons have been targeted as a result with media organisations and schools being shut down, journalists jailed and many others arrested without sufficient evidence.

As the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, we have always stated that the founding of our organisation was inspired by Gulen’s teaching and that we are part of the Hizmet Movement. We aim to promote social harmony locally and condemn any attempts to bring further discord into our already conflict-fraught world.

While we cannot speak on behalf of the movement, we can clearly state that we and our affiliated organisations in Australia have never had nor have any such agendas or aims.

We hope those responsible for trying to overthrow the government will be tried in courts of law and this incident becomes a source of motivation for strengthening Turkey’s democracy.

We praise the people of Turkey who took a stand against a violent takeover, some at the expense of their own lives. We can only hope and pray for a peaceful resolution to this matter.

We are particularly concerned that Turkey’s domestic troubles are used as a source of polarisation of the Turkish-speaking communities overseas.

 

Response from Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement

Gulen issued a statement early in the night condemning this coup in the strongest terms, adding “as someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.” Gulen also called for an independent international inquiry into the coup attempt implicating his involvement and was willing to accept the findings even before it commences.

Leading Hizmet NGOs in Turkey and abroad also issued condemnatory statements almost immediately as news broke out of the coup. Hizmet participants have consistently demonstrated categorical condemnation of such anti-democratic and violent practices and showed unequivocal commitment to the rule of law and a functioning democracy.

Both Gulen’s teachings and the Hizmet participants’ activities around the world in dialogue, democratic engagement, active citizenship and social cohesion are the embodiment of this commitment.

 

 

 

Parliament House of NSW Ramadan Iftar Dinner (2016)

The 2016 NSW Parliament Friendship and Dialogue Iftar took place at the NSW Parliament House, Strangers Lounge. Co-hosted by Affinity and NSW parliamentarians the Hon. John George Ajaka, MLC and the Hon. Sophie Cotsis, MLC, the event was attended by over 200 guests including MP’s, consuls general and representatives from the community and government. Sandra Sully, Channel 10 Journalist and Senior Editor with TEN, was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

The keynote speaker, His Excellency General the honourable David Hurley AC, DSC, Governor of New South Wales spoke about the importance of having a nation which is not feared but rather celebrates diversity and acceptance. His Excellency General emphasised that “nations aren’t built by bricks and waters, roads, bridges and so forth. It’s built through the positive efforts, the interactions, the synergies of people in pursuit of a peaceful, fair, tolerant, dynamic and diverse nation.” His Excellency Generals emphasis on a society which firmly believes and promotes plurality very much coincided with the purpose of the NSW Parliament Friendship and Dialogue dinner.

The Honourable John Ajaka identified through the example of the dinner just how harmonious the people that live in NSW are. He added that the coming together of the community and helping the vulnerable is part of the spirit of Ramadan.

The Honourable Sophie Cotsis described the Friendship and Dialogue Iftar Dinner to be a night of diversity within the peoples Parliament of NSW. She also emphasised that “our diversity is our strength” and the coming together of people from “different sectors, from across the political divide.”

Additional speakers included Dr Julian Droogan, senior lecturer at Macquarie University and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism who opened the program, Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College who recited the call to prayer and the verses from the Qur’an, Ahmet Polat, executive director of Affinity and Chief Justice James Allsop who concluded the program with a vote of thanks.

The evening included entertainment from the Amity College choir and enthralling performance from the Whirling Dervishes. The iftar promoted greater conversation and dialogue between different groups in wider society and increased awareness and appreciation of the diversity present in our community.

His Excellency General The Honorable David Hurley, NSW Governer

Ms Sandra Sully 

The Hon John Ajaka 

Gulen’s Condemning Message about ISIS is Published on US Newspapers

Mr. Fethullah Gulen’s condemnation of ISIS was published on several U.S. newspapers on Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ISIS Cruelty Deserves Our Strongest Condemnation

As a practicing Muslim deeply influenced by tenets of my faith, I strongly condemn the brutal atrocities of the ISIS terrorist group. Their actions are a disgrace to the faith they proclaim and are crimes against humanity. Religion provides a foundation upon which to establish peace, human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Any interpretations to the contrary, including the abuse of religion to fuel conflicts, are simply wrong and deceitful.

ISIS is not the first group to use religious rhetoric to mask its cruelty-Al Qaeda did so 13 years ago and Boko Haram more recently. What they all have in common is a totalitarian mentality that denies human beings their dignity.

Any form of violence against innocent civilians or prosecution of minorities contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the traditions of our Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings). ISIS members are either completely ignorant about the faith they proclaim or their actions are designed to serve individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and, as such, they should be brought to justice and compelled to answer for their horrific crimes.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased in Iraq and Syria, and to the families of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines. May God give them strength, patience and perseverance, and alleviate their suffering. I also pray for the immediate and safe release of hostages and ask God, the Merciful, to lead us all toward mutual respect and peace. I invite everyone around the world to join me in these prayers.

Fethullah Gulen
Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate

gulen-condems-ISIS