St Edmund’s College in Canberra hosted the Islamic School of Canberra (ISC) for the inaugural annual Harmony Dinner on Friday 15 November.

The intention of the event was to spend an evening together with select staff and students from the student leadership teams of the two schools to extend the bond of friendship.

St Edmund’s College had organised a halal menu as well as prayer facilities for the staff and students of ISC.

The event was jointly coordinated by Michael Monagle, Assistant Principal (Mission and Identity) of St Edmund’s College and Nazia Shirin, School Liaison and teacher at ISC.

“We have formed a positive rapport with St Edmund’s College through liaising and coordinating sporting events (including ISC’s first Athletics Carnival) and further coming together in an interfaith dinner setting with the intention of spending an evening together with staff and student leaders to extend our bond of friendship as Australians from faith-based schools,” said Ms Shirin.

“We are now working towards coordinating more opportunities for both school communities in the next academic year – including more sporting events, inviting more faith-based schools to join us in dialogue, creating authentic school visit opportunities for students to learn about each other’s faith and co-exist in harmony,” she further added.

L to R: Father Dan Beneditti,  Michael Monagle watch Imam Adama Konda explain the special relationship between Christians and Muslims

The evening was one of fine food, prepared by staff and students of St Edmund’s College, conversation and dialogue on the topic of ‘building unity’ by the head of religion/chaplains from both schools as represented by Father Dan Beneditti from St Edmund’s College and Imam Adama Konda from ISC.

Patrick McFarlane as a representative of students of St Edmund’s college and Haneen Al Asfi as a representative of the ISC presented passages from the Bible and Qur’an respectively.

Imam Konda related the story of the Muslims’ journey to Abyssinia to flee persecution and seek protection from the Christian King Negus as the symbol of the bond between Muslims and Christians.

Joe Zavone, Principal of St Edmund’s College, referenced Pope Francis’ “hidden sea of goodness” that is key to fraternity and peace.

L to R: Joe Zavone, Toni Brammall and Nazia Shirin with the olive tree and the collage

“I am excited that St Edmund’s College and the Islamic School of Canberra are leading the way in the ACT for school-based inter-religious dialogue and look forward to our friendship and partnership growing and developing through the next few years through a range of different activities.  Next year we hope to have the interfaith dinner as an Iftar dinner during Ramadan,” he said.

Toni Brammall, Principal of ISC, echoed these words during her vote of thanks as she presented St Edmund’s College with an olive tree, which has meaning in both religions, as a symbol of the blossoming relationship between the two institutions, as well as a collage of photos from the recent athletics carnival.

“ISC is very excited about its newfound relationship with St Edmund’s Catholic College. We appreciate everything they have hosted so far and we are looking forward to more inter-school activities in 2020,” she said.