Affinity in partnership with the Uniting Church organised the annual Building Harmony Iftar Dinner on Friday 24 May at the Western Sydney University multistory campus in the Parramatta CBD.
Mr Jim Mein, from the Uniting Church in Australia Synod, in his capacity as the MC for the evening, welcomed the guests for the Iftar dinner followed by acknowledgement to Country for Aboriginal Elder Uncle Greg Simms.
Uncle Simms gave a passionate speech introducing Aboriginal culture and languages and articulated great respect and sympathy for Muslims, who he said came into contact with Aboriginal people in the north of Australia centuries before Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia.
After the recitation of Adhan, call to prayer, the guests broke their fast followed by Maghreb prayer and then the dinner was served.
Mr Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation addressed the audience on behalf of the hosts and thanked the Uniting Church and Western Sydney University for their partnership.
Mr Bilal Kilic, Teacher at Amity College presented a beautiful recitation from the Quran with a projection of its meaning on the screen.
Amity college students together with Parramatta Mission volunteers combined for an interfaith musical performance.
The Sri Lankan Consul General Mr Lal Raj Wickrematunga related his personal heart-wrenching story of his struggles in Sri Lanka before he took up the diplomatic career while producing a highly reputable, independent, popular newspaper that became a thorn in the eyes of the corrupted government leadership.
The Keynote address at the Iftar Dinner was given by Mr Chin Tan, the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission.
Mr Tan in his usual relaxed but passionate manner and talking from his heart shedding light on his background, Ramadan and his experiences together with his current engagements in order to tackle race discrimination.
“The Australian Human Rights Commission remains committed to ensuring that human rights of all members of Australian society are respected and protected,” Mr Tan said.
He further added, “We will continue to support Muslim-Australian communities to feel safe in expressing your cultural and religious beliefs.”
“I look forward to collaborating with Muslim-Australian community members on how we can create a more inclusive and respectful Australia as part of my national conversation with you. Ramadan Kareem,” Mr Tan concluded.
Even after his address, Mr Tan remained at the venue for a long time engaged in small group and one to one discussions with a number of the audience whose minds he had stimulated during his passionate speech.
The respondents for the keynote address included Dr Derya Iner, Senior Lecturer, Charles Sturt University and Dr Deidre Palmer, President, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.
Dr Iner, reflecting on the recent mosque, church and synagogue attacks talked on the need for religions to spread the spiritual, social and humanitarian message.
Dr Palmer was delighted to host the Iftar dinner and said, “Tonight’s program reflects our shared commitment as Muslims and Christians to build bridges of friendship and understanding across Australia’s rich cultural and religious diversity.
All the audience joined together to sing along the Selam Salam Shalom Shlomo – a “Peace Song” to conclude the evening.