Affinity organised its major Ramadan Iftar Dinner at the NSW Parliament on Thursday 23 May 2019 attended by more than 300 prominent guests from diverse backgrounds and professions.
The event co-hosted by parliamentarians, The Hon John Sidoti MP and Ms Sophie Costis MP marked the Affinity Intercultural Foundation’s 11th annual Friendship and Dialogue Ramadan Iftar Dinner at the historic parliament building.
Former Socceroo and broadcaster and a staunch advocate for refugees and human rights, Craig Foster during his keynote address described how he spearheaded a campaign, creating a global movement and leading a coalition of organisations across sport and human rights to free the young soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi from Bangkok prison.
With thunderous applause Hakeem al-Araibi came to the stage in order to thank Craig and all his Australian supporters for a successful campaign that resulted in his safe return back to his new homeland.
Affinity’s annual ’Peace and Solidarity Award’ for 2019 was presented by Bill Dobbie, New Zealand Consul-General to Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, investigative reporter at the ABC and Lucy Carter, researcher at Four Corners, ABC for their work on the Four Corners episode titled, ‘Under the Radar’ following the Christchurch terror attacks on two mosques which claimed the lives of 51 innocent people with more than 50 injured.
The invited guests at the Iftar included business people, members of the Parliament, members of the media (including ABC, SBS, Sydney Morning Herald, Walkley Foundation, Desi Australia, AMUST and Zaman), members from the Royal Australian Navy, NSW Police Force, United Nations Association of Australia, youth and education leaders, community and religious leaders, school principals, captains and students, government officials, former diplomats, academics as well as well as consul generals representing a number of countries.
The formal program commenced with an introduction and a welcome by Kumi Taguchi, presenter and broadcaster on the ABC, who acted as MC for the evening.
Welcome to Country was given by Walangari Karnatawarra, an Australian Aboriginal artist and Aboriginal elder from Alice Springs and now lives and works in Sydney.
Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and an Affinity Advisory Board Member welcomed the guests.
Bilal Kilic from Amity College, in his melodious voice gave Adhan, the Arabic call to prayer for guests to break their fast. In mosques all around the world, the call to the evening prayer signals the end of the fast and the beginning of the Iftar dinner.
Mr Abdul Raheem, Consul at the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney reflected upon the recent acts of terror in Sri Lanka which claimed more than 200 innocent lives. Dr Kathy Egea, Senior Lecturer at UTS, was invited to the stage to present a gift to Mr Abdul Raheem.
Soon after dinner, Walangari Karntawarra and Amity College Choir came together on the stage for a combined performance.
Walangari performed a solo piece, followed by a performance from the Amity College Choir who sang, ‘Garrry Ninaname’, a traditional Aboriginal song & Touch the Sky, from Brave. The choir conductor for the evening was Emma Bolton, a music teacher at Amity College.
The Hon John Sidoti and Ms Sophie Cotsis presented gifts to the Amity College Choir students and their teacher Emma Bolton.
The Hon John Sidoti, Member for Drummoyne is the Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans, and a Member of the Liberal Party while Ms Sophie Cotsis, Member for Canterbury is Shadow Minister for Women, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism , Shadow Minister for Ageing, Shadow Minister for Disability Services, and a Member of the Autralian Labor Party.
Both co-hosts of the Iftar addressed the guests and were presented with gifts by The Hon John Hatzistergos, Judge, District Court of NSW.
The most popular and mover and shaker behind such successful events, Ahmet Polat, the Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation in his unique and hilarious style addressed all the guests present as his cousins appreciating all and thanking guests, sponsors, supporters and volunteers.
Joe Gelonesi, Manager, Religion & Ethics ABC, presented a gift to Pauline Wright and Walangari.
The audience were mesmerised by Qur’an recitation by Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College.
The keynote speaker, Craig Foster finally took to the stage and in addition to talking about his efforts to free Hakeem al-Araibi, gave a moving address of hiis passion for advocacy towards vulnerable people, gender equality in sport as a driver of change, indigenous rights and social justice and always being a prominent advocate for the beautiful game and its social impact on Australia.
A special gift, Jersey signed by international soccer legend Hakan Sukur (Shukur) was presented to Craig Foster by Ahmet Polat.
Sukur (Shukur) spent most of his club career at Galatasaray, but also played for Torino, Inter Milan, Parma and the Blackburn Rovers. He represented Turkey a total of 112 times, scoring 51 goals, making him the nation’s top goalscorer and 19th in the world at the time of his retirement. One of the most prolific strikers of the modern era, he netted 383 goals throughout his club career as well as the fastest ever in a World Cup, in 2002.
A special musical performance was staged by Ashiya Khan and Yasmin Hasan who participated in the International Festival of Language and Culture (IFLC), one of the largest and most prominent events for promoting world languages and cultures.
It was dedicated to cultivate and educate the youth and create a platform to share their cultural heritage with their peers around the world.
Ashiya Khan sang “You’re the Voice” by the one of Australia’s most beloved solo artists, John Farnham while Yasmin Hasan sang “Get Along” by Guy Sebastian, first winner of the first Australian Idol in 2003.
The Hon Dr Geoff Lee, Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education was invited to the stage to present gifts from Affinity to Ashiya, Yasmin and their music teacher Nuran Okan. Geoff stayed back on the stage to address the audience.
The Consul General of New Zealand in Sydney, Mr Bill Dobbie, honoured the guests with a moving address reflecting upon the recent tragedy in Christchurch and the coming together of the community afterwards.
Prof Mary Sponberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Southern Cross University presented a gift to Mr Dobbie.
The Hon John Sidoti and Ms Sophie Cotsis handed sponsorship certificates to all of the sponsors, Suttons Homebush Honda, Multicultural NSW, University of Sydney, Settlement Services International (SSI), NAB and Notre Dame University.
Hakeem Al- Araibi, Community & Human Rights Advocate at Football Victoria accepted the award on behalf of Football Victoria.
Afterwards, Principal Chaplain Collin Acton, Director General Chaplaincy from the Royal Australian Navy and Louisa Graham, Chief Executive of the Walkley Foundation gave reflections from the floor.
The Vote of Thanks was given by Mr Chin Tan, Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission who was presented with a gift by Patricia Jenkings, President of the United Nations Association of Australia.
Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and Kumi Taguchi closed the formal proceedings with concluding remarks.
Ramadan is a month dedicated to self-discipline, spiritual renewal and togetherness. It is a time when Muslims recommit themselves to their faith, following days of discipline with nights of gratitude for the gifts that God bestows. Ramadan presents an opportunity for Muslims to bring their most positive values to the fore.
It’s a time of spiritual renewal and a reminder of one’s duty to our fellow human beings: to serve one another and lift up those less fortunate. The Quran teaches that we should tread gently upon the earth and, when confronted by ignorance, reply “peace”.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. By foregoing things that we take for granted, by taking care to be kind, respectful and just, we are more likely to live out our values.