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Affinity Friendship & Dialogue Iftar Dinner 2008


Affinity Friendship & Dialogue Iftar Dinner 2008

The 5th annual Affinity Intercultural Foundation Friendship and Dialogue dinner had all the perfect ingredients for a wonderful and uplifting event – great food, wonderful company, uplifting entertainment and learning for all.

240 guests included friends of Affinity who had participated in dialogue throughout the year. This was a wonderful opportunity to thank them for the work they had done with Affinity and also to share a sacred and beautiful experience – the breaking of the fast in the holy month of Ramadan.

The Quran was recited by Musa Hodzic, who touched the hearts of everyone in the room with his beautiful voice. Muhammad Cengic delivered the Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer before the breaking of the fast, which also meant that food was served. With a lot to be said, and little time in which to do it in, the room was buzzing with lively conversation and laughter, the sound of old friends catching up.

Soon after dinner, when plates where empty, Zuleyha Keskin the Vice President of Affinity welcomed everyone to the not ‘so young anymore Affinity Intercultural Foundation’ dinner.

Guests got a special keynote address from the Honorable Laurie Ferguson, who addressed the issue of Australian multiculturalism in the 21st century, stating that we should be proud of the country we live in and the variety of cultures that surround us. He said this truly hit him after attending a delegate meeting overseas and seeing the different and colourful cultures that Australia produced for the world to see.

Al Madeheen is an Islamic spiritual music group from Syria who gave the guest what was one of the most unforgettable performances. With their Sufi like music and incredible voices, they managed to take the guests on a spiritual journey into their music to the extent that some guests were in tears. Their music was truly up lifting and inspiring.

When we were all back down to earth, Mehmet Ozalp gave the annual Affinity address, which was off course focused on interfaith. Mehmet Ozalp stated that since Affinity many others have taken up the idea of interfaith, which has now moved from being just theory to being something practical. Mehmet ended his address by thanking all the friends and partners who have throughout the years shown their support for Affinity saying that ‘when we took a step to you, you took 10 to us, and that if were to walk to you, you would I am sure, come to us running’. A most beautiful sentiment and one that truly depicts the essence of dialogue.

A poem of Rumis’ was recited in its original language (Persian) by Mahsheed Ansari and was translated into English by Atish Moin. The poem touched everyone in the room.

The Affinity Friendship and dialogue dinner is not only about catching up, eating and listening to talks, it is in fact a very important night for the field of Interfaith, dare it be said it is the Oscars of Oscars for Interfaith, the Australian Affinity Awards. This year Peter Manning a good friend of Affinity’s and advocate of dialogue, hosted the awards section of the night, opening it up by stating that he himself has won an Affinity Award previously, which he cherishes and holds in high regard. Peter Manning was able to ease the awards process and make it light for us all as there were eight categories to present. The recipients of the Australian Affinity Awards for 2008 were;

  • Interfaith Dialogue – Bishop Isaam Derwish
  •  Academic – Professor Clive Pearson
  • Public Service – The Hon. Paul Lynch
  • Media – Mr Matt Campbell
  • Education – Mrs Helen Clarke
  • Youth Interfaith – Ms Chantelle Ogilvie
  • Muslim Community – Mrs Aziza Abdel Halim
  • Youth Community – Mr Dirga Adnan

With the awards handed out, pictures taken and thank you’s given, it was felt that the night was drawing to an end. So the President of Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Mehmet Saral gave a vote of thanks to all the guests and friends that took up their time to be at the dinner with Affinity, sharing such an important and holy month with us.

The event brought out familiar and new faces and demonstrated the importance of dialogue in our communities in more ways than one.

One guest spoke of her experience as “being enlightened by the culture of dialogue.” She also said that she could not believe how many people had given up dinner with their families on a Sunday evening just to be here. “It is very touching especially when you switch on your television and you are bombarded by the negative images of violence, hatred and intolerance. And then to come here and share this wonderful food and experience with people who are Muslims and non-Muslims, it really puts things into perspective and makes you realise that there really are some great people in this world who are trying to make a difference.”

Another gentleman described his experience as “completely overwhelming and unexpected”. “I have never been invited to something like this before and the scale of what is happening here in this room is phenomenal. I never knew that all this good work was being done. This is the creation of beautiful friendships and tolerance by opening doors, minds, hearts and perspectives. It’s unbelievable to know that these award winners have spent so much time doing such wonderful work. They are the celebrities of the dialogue world. They should be celebrated.”

“Looking around I can see that there are some very important people here tonight and this really is the measure of how far and how well respected an organisation is.”

The dinner was a hit and with the smiles on the faces of the guests as they where leaving, could not suggest otherwise!