“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…