Affinity held the first dinner for women in the Illawarra region, aptly titled the “Women of Cultures Dinner” at the respectable, well catered and always inviting Portofino reception lounge in Wollongong on the 26th of May.
The event was attended by distinguished guests from the Illawarra region and beyond including our speakers, Hon Noreen Hay MP (State Member for Wollongong), Rev Mai You (Reverend at the Berkeley Nan Tien Temple), Ms Margaret Biggs (Manager Director and Community Engagement at TIGS) and Ms Makiz Ansari (Director of the Islamic Research Academy of Australia).
The night not only provided cultural awareness of each other, but it created a warm and amiable environment where connections and life-long friends could be made.
As keynote speaker, Hon Noreen Hay lit up the event by recounting her migration to Australia and the challenges she faced as a woman of ethnic descent, to make something of herself in her newly adopted land. She uplifted the ladies in the room about the extent of multiculturalism and its integral role in Australian society.
Recitations from the Muslim and Christian representatives followed. The Muslim representative recited from the Qur’an and the Christian representative read a passage from the Bible. The message was clear – greater understanding and social cohesion amongst people of different nations and cultures. This was further reiterated during the table discussions and the conversations readily flowing amongst all the tables.
The first respondent was Ms Margaret Biggs, representing the Christian Anglican faith. She highlighted the importance of working hard as a key tenet of being an Anglican Christian. Her defining message for the night was that children don’t see race, colour, religion or creed – they only see people as people, which reminds us of Scout’s famous quote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “there’s only one kind of folks. Folks”.
Reverend Mai You, representative of the Buddhist faith was the next respondent. She talked about the basic tenets of Buddhism with regards to human interaction between one another. The key point she made was that an affinity amongst people should not only be a feeling but should also be a natural state of being.
This means that a natural affinity between one another will occur when there is sincerity in intention and action.
The last respondent was Ms Makiz Ansari, the representative of the Islamic faith. Her speech captivated the hearts and minds of all listening to her. Her speech was awe-inspiring and illuminated all as she talked about utilising literature to develop affinity amongst people, namely by great Muslim saints Said Nursi and Yunus Emre. The example by Said Nursi was that for an apple to grow and propagate, it required the Earth, water, sun and universe all working together symbiotically and in perfect harmony. The example of Yunus Emre was that we love the creation because of the Creator., meaning if we love the Creator, we love everything around us.
The Affinity team also put on a traditional Turkish performance of Henna Night. This performance was about a bride experiencing her last days of being single – the transitional stage from being a girl to a woman, from being single to married. The TIGS students also participated in this event, thus experiencing Turkish culture for the first time.
Mrs Semanur Kombeci, Affinity Wollongong Team Ladies Coordinator, concluded the night by talking about Affinity and the work done in the Wollongong area in the past few years. She noted that it was the first dinner of its kind in the Illawarra region.