“Even if we have different feelings and thoughts, we are all people of this society. Even though we may not have common ground on some matters, we all live in this world and we are passengers on the same ship. In this respect, there are many common points that can be discussed and shared with people from every segment of society.”

It was such motivating statements by one of the leading Muslim scholars of our time, Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, that led a handful of young Australian Muslims to get together in a humble home environment to discuss ways of contributing to the construction of a harmonious Australian society. Sincere and dedicated, they decided to establish “Affinity” to advocate dialogue, respect, understanding, acceptance and ultimately peace between the different members of our society. Their efforts were received with immense support by many who later joined their societal endeavour. The ever-increasing momentum of this collective bridge-building effort soon made it clear that a hub was required and so the first Affinity Centre was opened in the suburb of “many cultures, one community” Auburn. Many years later, numerous members of the community voiced the need for Affinity to be in a more ‘central centre’, thus facilitating the move to the Sydney CBD…

The new Affinity Centre’s official launch, symbolic of the growth of Affinity’s outreach, was on the 11th of March, 2013. The NSW Governor, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, honoured the gathering to unveil the plaque and show her support for Affinity’s work. Also present to lend support were The Hon John Ajaka MLC representing the NSW Premier and the Liberal Party, Mr John Robertson MP representing the NSW Labor Party, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione APM and Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas APM, DFAT NSW Director Ms Virginia Greville, academics, media personalities and community leaders.

The formal program started with the NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione sharing his reflections. Highlighting that “building bridges” is the key concept in Affinity’s motto, Commissioner Scipione said, “I could not think of a better way of describing what it is that Affinity is all about in terms of the bridges that we know that you build and continue to build… We treasure [the diversity that you bring] as police because we know that diversity coming together is what builds strong communities, strong suburbs, strong cities and nations. So we will always help you and we will be there with you in building those strong suburbs, cities and nations… We wish you every success in the future”.

The NSW Opposition Leader Mr John Robertson followed, expressing the significant contribution Affinity is making towards eliminating ignorance between the different communities in Sydney. Noting that “we might look different, we might practise a different religion but deep down we are all the same”, the Opposition Leader stated that he looks forward to Affinity continuing its outreach from its new centre to address people’s “base fear of difference”.

The Hon John Ajaka then shared his thoughts, passing on the well wishes of Premier Barry O’Farrell and Multiculturalism Minister Victor Dominello, who could not attend. Mr Ajaka said, “I look at the Harbour Bridge [on Affinity’s banner], I see Affinity and what they have achieved in just 6 years [of my acquaintance with them] and I can see a day will come where Affinity will be representative of the Great Harbour Bridge of Sydney for the great work that it does”.

The formal program came to a close with the NSW Governor, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir sharing her sentiments. The Governor started by saying, “I am delighted to be here with the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, whose work symbolises so much of the strength and goodness of Australia in the 21st century. Respect for all; all who espouse peace and peaceful progress. This respect is paramount regardless of ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds”. Her Excellency stressed the “continuing importance of Affinity’s noble aspirations” and commented that these aims will be better served by being “in the very heartland of the city”. Encouraging Affinity to continue its role “in drawing the streams of society together”, The Governor gave her well wishes for the future before declaring the centre officially open by unveiling the ceremonial plaque.

After the ceremony, Affinity’s Executive Director Mr Ahmet Keskin said that Affinity is excited about furthering its contribution towards establishing a harmonious Australian society from its new premises…

NSW Alliance Affirms Multicultural Success

An alliance of organisations and individuals from across New South Wales have united to re-affirm their support of the state’s multicultural and multi-faith community.

This is their joint statement in response to the Geert Wilders’ visit to Australia to spread bigotry and disharmony.

New South Wales is a multicultural and multi-faith society in which racial, religious and linguistic diversity is embraced as a strength. This vibrant diversity has generated social, cultural and economic benefits for all of the state’s citizens.
The community holds a diversity of views and beliefs, observes many different cultures and traditions and speaks a wide range of languages. The 2011 ABS Census illustrated our cultural diversity: In New South Wales 31.4% of people were born overseas; 48.1% had at least one parent born overseas; 27.5% speak a language other than English at home; and 129 different faiths are followed.

Community harmony in New South Wales is strengthened by a long-standing, shared commitment across government, community and business to respect and embrace difference, to respond appropriately to unjust treatment and vilification, and to recognise and celebrate our common bond as proud Australians.

We have a collective responsibility to respect fellow citizens and preserve the social cohesion that characterise New South Wales as a great society. We also encourage genuine and constructive engagement and dialogue as a means to achieving greater understanding and acceptance of diversity.

We welcome challenging ideas and debate which does not incite hatred and animosity towards specific cultural or faith-based communities. All people of New South Wales have a right to practice their faith and observe their cultural traditions and languages free from discrimination or vilification.

This statement is endorsed by the following organisations and individuals (in alphabetical order):

  • Affinity Intercultural Foundation
  • Amitabha Buddhist Association of New South Wales
  • Australian National Imams Council
  • Columban Mission Institute
  • Islamic Council of NSW
  • Standing Committee on Interfaith Dialogue for the World Fellowship of Buddhists
  • The Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay
  • The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT

Problems facing the Arab World and the Perspectives of Fethullah Gulen

Affinity Intercultural Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of its Australia – Middle East Dialogue Platform for the discussion of issues concerning the two regions and the strengthening of communication and understanding between their people.

To deliver the platform’s first lecture, Affinity hosted Professor Mohammad Sharkawi from Cairo University yesterday. Titled “Problems Facing the Arab World and the Perspectives of Fethullah Gulen”, Professor Sharkawi’s lecture shed light on the post-Arab Spring issues and challenges facing the region, especially Egypt, and the suggestions offered by the prominent, contemporary Muslim scholar, Fethullah Gulen, to alleviate them.

Professor Sharkawi started by quoting some statistics about the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions and discussing the factors that led to the revolution in Egypt, looking at some of the dictatorial aspects of Mubarak’s regime.

He then discussed the new range of issues facing the Egyptian people and their budding democracy, followed by the three-dimensional solution suggested by Fethullah Gulen – namely, addressing ignorance and related issues by establishing institutions offering holistic education; addressing poverty and related issues by mobilising businessmen/women to donate for philanthropic initiatives; and, addressing division and conflict in society by advocating interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Professor Sharkawi supported Fethullah Gulen’s thought that to truly fulfil these aims, one must strive to be an ideal human being who upholds justice, equality, freedom, human rights and democracy.

Professor Sharkawi concluded by outlining the Egyptian people’s main expectations from the new democracy and where things are at presently. He insisted that the future is very promising for Egypt and the other Arab Spring countries but that they need to be given some time.

The Q&A session that followed furthered the discussion about the challenges currently facing Egypt and provided hope that the steps being taken to address them will yield fruits in the near future…

You can watch the full lecture below. For other videos, please check our YouTube account ‘AffinityDialogue’.

Professor Mohammad Sharkawi is Head of the Department of Islamic Philosophy & Comparative Religion at Cairo University. He has a remarkable contribution in interreligious and intercultural dialogue. He founded the Doha International Symposium for Interreligious Dialogue as well as the Cairo University International Conference of Islamic Philosophy. He has authored more than twenty books and hundreds of research papers on Comparative Religion and Islamic Philosophy. He was the vice president of the Islamabad International University and was a visiting professor to a number of international and Arab universities.


Affinity Office Relocation

One of our major announcements has been our move to the Sydney CBD. From 2013 onwards Affinity will be working out of the Sydney office and will be looking forward to ramping up their lectures amongst other activities.  If you would like to get in touch with us please   Visit us at Suite 502, Level 5 51-57 Pitt St Sydney NSW 2000   OR   Write to us at PO BOX  R1673 Royal Exchange NSW 1225   OR   Call us on Tel : 02 8065 2502