News and Blog

Women Of Faith Dinner And Awards 2004


Women Of Faith Dinner And Awards 2004

wof2004_clip_image002As the dinner title “Women of Faith” suggests the evening of April the 4th 2004 was one of spiritual experiences of the three participant faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The venue was the fabulous and splendid Para Villa Reception Lounge located at the heart of Parramatta. As the guests started to arrive, the interactions began even near the registration tables. Fresh faces of the young ushers extended warm greeting to dinner participants.

Who says that spirituality is simple… Amidst the glamour and decorative main lounge of the Para Villa, the spirituality was just as much glamorous and uplifting.

The journey began with the “Amana Rasoulu bee ma…” the melodious voice of Aliya Atalay echoed the verses of the Quran captivating the attention of all the guests. This kick started the Scripture readings of the three holy books, Qur’an followed by readings of the Gospel and the Torah. Hearts were enlightened at the sounds and words of the holy books even though the meanings may not have been totally understood. The books were all different but the message was one of goodness, giving, forgiving, love, peace and most importantly the belief in one God.

Women of Faith Dinner 2004 Award Receivers- Josie Lacey, Sr Pauline Rae, Maha Krayem Abdo, Josie Lacey, a prominent Jewish female leader, led a series of short talks. She shared her faith’s spiritual experience and discussed the importance of Passover, which was to commence the day after the dinner and a significant time for people of Jewish faith. She was soon followed by Trish Madigan, a Dominican sister, working for Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, informed us similarly of her views on spirituality and the Christian experiences of Baptism and Eucharist.

The short interlude to follow was marked by a heart throbbing performance by Ayse Goknur Shanal. Ayse herself a Muslim did an opera masterpiece performance of “Meyerke” a song about a Jewish boy and the “Amazing Grace” the famous Christian song.

wof2004_clip_image002_0001Hulya Selvi who is a deputy principle at Sule College was the last of the speakers and she presented her perspective on Muslim spirituality. She put forward an intellectual argument as to why one should be spiritual, using examples from Islamic literature to emphasise the importance of spirituality and the fruits that it brings.

The speeches were fuel for the mind, but there was also delicious dishes for the stomach, where all the ladies were able to connect with the ‘other’ on a more human level. It was also over the dinner where many let the ties of ignorance, the barriers of prejudice and preconceived ideas lose, and they let their guards down and finally there was a real harmonious peaceful understanding of the ‘other’ moving beyond mere tolerance and towards acceptance and appreciation of each other.

Soon after Yesim Bilir and her band performed an instrumental ensemble, a mix of traditional Ottoman style instruments with modern sting and electric instruments. Yesim’s angelic like voice captivated everyone’s attention. Her song titled “I call You My Lord” sang and performed in Turkish, of which the audience had a copy of the translation. The song’s lyrics beautifully correlated the many monotheistic prophets whom all the three faiths respect. The amazing performances highlight the spiritual connection that all who attended felt present. There was no talk of politics and the atmosphere was one of peace, as the true peaceful messages of each religion praised and presented ‘a common ground’ for all the three faiths.

For a 70 year-old Muslim woman, the night made her heart cry. For a Jewish girl, it was a spiritual kick off right before Passover making her spiritually prepared and for the Christians similarly it was a good spiritual enlightenment right before Easter.

All left the venue with mixed emotions, well pleased and pleasing. The mind, the heart and most importantly the spirit were revived.

This was one of the many events organised by Affinity Intercultural Foundation, an organisation that focuses on bringing together people from different faiths. In most recent years, there has been an increased need felt to build relations between Muslims and the wider community. This has been done by many projects that have been carried out since the establishment of Affinity Intercultural Foundation in 2001. For example, the holding of the annual International Interfaith Conference where Muslim, Christian and Jewish speakers are invited to come together to talk about the topic of discussion. There has also been the involvement with the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque open day where the mosque is open for tours to the public. The open days have been very popular, having more than one thousand attendees at the last open day. Affinity Intercultural Foundation has also responded to the need for educating the community on Islam due to the misrepresentation of Islam in the media and the lack of understanding of Islam. A number of courses are offered, including Overview of Islam, Advanced Course and Personal Leadership Course. It is felt that such initiatives will help to grow and foster peace within the Australian community.