This year’s Ramadan period saw an unprecedented number of guests attend an Affinity arranged home iftar.
The home iftar concept, a Muslim community initiative pioneered by Affinity in 2006, allows for closer interaction between the Muslim and non-Muslim members of our society. During Ramadan 2012, Affinity hosted more than 90 people in 19 home iftars. Participants included politicians, media personalities, faith leaders, community leaders, academics, councillors, other government officials and businessmen/women.
The cosy atmosphere of a home coupled with exquisite home-made cuisine, leads to sincere, fruitful dialogue between individuals. This engagement helps break down barriers and allows participants to “feel richer for the experience”. It also allows for the hosts to gain deeper knowledge of their guests’ roles in society and/or in their workforce, which leads to greater appreciation of the work that they do. This friendly transaction sows the seed for greater awareness and understanding within the community. Many times in these home iftars did our guests and hosts state that these opportunities to meet new people should continue and that Ramadan is a great time for this facilitation.
Below you will find an article written by one of the participants to provide their perspective of the gathering, followed by some testimonials:
RAMADAN IFTAR DINNERS IN SYDNEY 2012 PROVE POPULAR WITH NON-MUSLIM COMMUNITY
The Muslim community in Sydney has received positive media publicity for hosting a series of Iftar dinners during the 2012 Ramadan, in which people from non-Muslim backgrounds were invited to participate.
Affinity Intercultural Foundation, which is supported by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, used the opportunity of the Iftar dinners to build bridges with non-Muslim communities by inviting them to join in the traditional feasts, to share the cultural experience and learn more about Islam, different traditions, people and issues.
One high profile dinner recently held at the western Sydney home of businessman, Erhan Bozkurt, was attended by leader of the Opposition in the NSW State Parliament, John Robertson; Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Szoke; Vice President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jeremy Spinak and his colleague NGO Relations Manager, Lynda Ben-Menashe; Uniting Church Moderator, Rev Dr Brian Brown and his wife Helen and numerous members of the Turkish community.
The evening concluded with a frank exchange of ideas from all participants about how the Muslim community could continue to build constructive and positive cross-cultural relationships.
The gathering also heard from Zuleyha Keskin,Vice President of Islamic Sciences & Research Academy (ISRA) about progress with Australia’s first university degree programme in Islamic studies. The full degree course is being offered in conjunction with Charles Sturt University, with the first graduates due later this year. This may lead to Australia’s first home grown Imams down the track.
The host for the evening, Executive Director Ahmet Keskin, said the concept for the Iftar community dinners during Ramadan had developed and grown successfully over a number of years. He said this year there were 19 home iftars over a 30 day period with some 90 guests from diverse background attending a home iftar.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, who attended one of the dinners, said she was very impressed with the educational experience and the generosity of the hosts.
“The dinner on Monday was wonderful – I am indebted to Affinity and my hosts! The meal was fabulous and for the first time in my life had the dishes and accompaniments explained. It was also incredibly interesting to listen to conversation between a Jew and a Muslim about culinary traditions, rules and reasons. How enlightening! I posted the photo we took to commemorate the evening and received a large number of ‘likes’ and comments like ‘I wish we could do this in regional NSW too!’ And ‘This should be happening all over Australia!”
CC – NSW Parliament Legislative Council
“We found it to be a most meaningful evening. Not only was the food superb – as I said, it took me back to my childhood days – but the way you structured the evening, with the focused discussion afterwards, made it very worthwhile. We felt totally at home… We look forward to more such great evenings – breaking down barriers and building bridges.”
VA and NA – NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
“Thank you so much for opening your home to all and sundry for an Iftar dinner. I very much enjoyed the evening, especially the excellent food and equally rich conversation. It is no small thing to make a diverse group of people comfortable and I really appreciate the effort behind the scenes and your graciousness… I have seldom met a group that was so intentional in its building of bridges and I feel honored to be able to participate in that process, even if in a small way.”
TLH – Temple University, USA
“It was a pleasure to be feted in such a beautiful home and with such esteemed guests.”
JS – NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
“The initiative taken by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation to host Ramadan Iftar dinners for non-Muslims in homes of Muslim families, needs to be applauded as it builds bridges between our communities and contributes to better understanding of our cultural and religious diversity.”
SO – University of Western Sydney
“My family enjoyed it very much and we left feeling richer for the experience.”
DL – Fairfax Media
“…The grass roots engagement of community leaders such as through the Iftar dinners are a unique and memorable outreach that requires investment not only by the participating families but equally by the invited community leaders. I look forward to supporting the Affinity Intercultural Foundation in years ahead.”
SM – Sydney City Council