Did you feel that Ramadan this year has sped by with school holidays, four short weeks, Easter and Anzac Day holidays while we’re adapting to living with COVID, lots of wonderful iftars bringing people together in numbers large and small.

There are three events I’d like to reflect on all with intertwined themes.

On Tuesday 19 April, first National Muslim Community Annual Iftar at Sydney Olympic Park has to be pondered as an exciting landmark event with 15 Australian Muslim organisations hosting a national event together for the first time attended by over 500 people.

Invited guests at the first National Muslim Community Annual Iftar on Tuesday 19 April 2022 at Waterview, Sydney Olympic Park.

As MC Bilal Rauf, spokesperson and advisor of the Australian National Imams Council, put it, “The Australian Muslim community is experiencing a transformation. A new generation is emerging and assuming positions of leadership and engagement at various levels – political, legal, business, professional. We have voices emerging who identify, first and foremost, as Australians. We are a generation born and raised in this country – a generation which wants to make a difference and ensure that our country and society improve for the betterment of everyone.”

Our identity as Australians in 2022 was one important theme for the evening as several hundred people from all walks of life broke the fast and sat together as brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues. “All part of the same tightly woven fabric,” as Mr Rauf put it, “as we care for each other and seek to overcome barriers, prejudices, ignorance in attempting to understand and connect with each other.”

And he reminded us of the importance of hospitality, of sharing food and sitting, talking and getting to know each other. Something which resonated strongly with me and the purpose of Recipes for Ramadan. He has kindly allowed me to quote from his opening remarks:

“Hospitality is first and foremost a duty towards others, and a way of living in which we are constantly reminded of human diversity. In this context, food is a blessing to be shared with others and a means of enjoying the company of others. There is also a deeper spiritual symbolism – life may be more than food, but there is no life without it. Thus, the theological significance of what we eat and whom we eat with connects the ordinary life with the higher life.

In the monotheistic religions, the food and drink one served a guest was a sign of God’s grace, but it was also a sacred duty— there is nothing quite so simple and yet as profound as the giving and serving of food to others. We ourselves are all guests of God’s hospitality and have an obligation to show hospitality to others. Thus, our hospitality to others is a sign of our love for God, for God is always present when guests are present at the table.”

Sheikh Shadi Alsuleiman, President of ANIC addressing the guests at the first National Muslim Community Annual Iftar on Tuesday 19 April 2022 at Waterview, Sydney Olympic Park.

The second event I’d like to remark on was on a very much smaller scale. Held in the boardroom of Amity College Prestons, four parents and their student children hosted the Mayor of Liverpool, Ned Mannoun, and prepared and served food from their families’ culture and country of origin.

There were mains from Iraq, Somalia and Turkey and a dessert from Japan but equally or more importantly, the hosts shared their family stories of migration and diaspora, Mayor Mannoun shared his and we all explored what it is to be Australian in our migrant nation in 2022 and what ideas might improve the quality of life for all people living in Liverpool. A taster of those recipes and stories can be found on Recipes for Ramadan.

The world on a plate: Iraqi, Somali, and Turkish mains were followed by a Japanese desert prepared by students and parents, drawing on their family backgrounds

The third event was last Friday, a fundraiser for Mahboba’s Promise to support widows and orphans in Afghanistan. Nothing could be more needed as poverty and hunger soar and the UN reports that 23million people face extreme hunger with 5 million at risk of starvation and 1million children at risk of dying.

It was a very special evening with many recently arrived Afghan women, the 11 orphans Mahboba managed to evacuate last year, and fantastic support from across Sydney’s Arab community. Everyone who was there will I’m sure be grieving the awful attack on a Hazara school in Afghanistan this week.

These exquisite dolls, handmade by Afghan refugee women in India, were part of a lively auction run by comedian Frida Deguise at Mahboba’s Promise Iftar

So what of the next few days? An iftar Friday night at UTS will bring together students of Bangladeshi background from all Sydney universities and Recipes for Ramadan Bangladeshi-Australian contributor Maqsood Al-Kabir hopes to inspire a younger generation to celebrate their culinary heritage and share their family stories.

Saturday, I’m helping out at Penny Appeal’s Somali Iftar Kitchen, preparing meals with SACA (the Somali Australian Community Association) and Penny Appeal’s Team Orange volunteers to distribute to those in need in the Somali Community and then in Martin Place with Brothers in Need.

Sunday ABC Local Radio NSW will be running a half hour segment after the 11am news on Ramadan, hospitality, and sharing food and stories. Simon Marnie’s guests will include Penny Appeal’s Jana Abdul Aziz and Taysir Ghazi who ran the Egyptian Iftar Kitchen and with Shadia Melligi supervised the provision of some 400 meals of Ful Medames two ways and Koushari.

Tune in or stream online via this link, live or over the next 7 days. And do check out Taysir and Shadia’s recipes and stories which should also be online by Sunday morning.

Taysir Ghazi’s traditional Egyptian Fawla pot was never going to be big enough when preparing 200 portions of Ful Medames in Penny Appeal’s Egyptian Iftar Kitchen

Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the sharing of food and conversation or stories and importantly that the last ten days of this Ramadan will be particularly blessed for you.