The 14th NSW Parliament Friendship & Dialogue Iftar was held on Wednesday 5 April 2023 at The Fullerton Hotel in Sydney bringing together more than 350 guests including members of Parliament, Royal Australian Navy personnel, Fire & Rescue NSW team members, religious and community leaders, education leaders, businessmen, academics, members of the judiciary, media representatives, and many more individuals who symbolising the diverse multicultural fabric of the state of NSW.
The event was organised by Affinity Intercultural Foundation and hosted by Labor state minister Penny Sharpe MLC and Liberal MLC Chris Rath while the guest of honour was Amar Singh and the keynote address was delivered by NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb. The veteran singer Kamahl mesmerised the audience with his voice, eloquence and spontaneous singing on demand.
The theme of the evening was inspired by the profound words of poet Rumi: “The beauty of the plant comes from the goodness of the seed, and the beauty of man comes from his heart.”
Setting the tone for the evening was the charismatic MC, Darren Mara, a renowned SBS Presenter & Dateline Reporter, who effortlessly guided the proceedings with his warmth and charm.
The evening commenced with a moving Acknowledgement of Country & Traditional Owners by Professor Michael McDaniel AO FRSN, a Special Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor of UTS. Professor McDaniel shared insights from his own Wiradjuri First Nations Culture, reflecting on the philosophy and spiritual practice of Yindyamarra, which emphasises living lives of honour, kindness, and graciousness. His words resonated deeply with the audience.
The Acknowledgement was followed by a mesmerising Didgeridoo performance by Uncle Walangari Karntawarra, an esteemed Australian Aboriginal Artist and a valuable advisory member of Affinity. His performance captivated everyone in the room, showcasing the richness of Indigenous culture.
As the fast was broken, and the call to prayer, known as the “Adhan,” was delivered by Mr Bilal Kilic, a respected teacher from Amity College, the guests indulged in a sumptuous dinner.
The Hon Penny Sharpe eloquently expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to come together and engage in meaningful conversations with individuals from all walks of life. She shared a touching quote from her daughter, highlighting the importance of kindness, love, and compassion in creating a society where everyone belongs.
The Hon Chris Rath MLC also reflected on the significance of cross-cultural friendships in the success of New South Wales as a multicultural society, and praised the Iftar dinners for representing the best aspects of living in the state.
The Executive Director of Affinity, Mr Ahmet Polat, delivered the final welcome, emphasising the power of human connection and heartfelt conversations in fostering understanding and unity among people.
He drew parallels between the theme of the night and the current challenges of natural and man-made disasters, highlighting how communities can come together to sow the seeds of goodness and cultivate beauty in the face of adversity.
He also spoke about the importance of the Uluru Statement of the Heart as a powerful initiative that promotes mutual respect and understanding in working towards a shared vision for a better future.
Adding to the serene atmosphere of the evening, a beautiful Quran recitation was performed by Mr Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College, bringing a sense of spiritual serenity to the gathering.
Honorary NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb APM’s keynote speech emphasised diversity, community collaboration, and addressing societal challenges. She highlighted the importance of partnership between community leaders and police to tackle silent crimes, youth violence, and indigenous community issues.
Her powerful message echoed the event’s theme of collective efforts for positive change, underscoring that our society’s success depends on coming together to make a lasting impact.
The audience was mesmerised as they were transported to the captivating world of Sufi and Eastern Contemporary music during a live performance by some very special guests who had traveled all the way from Adelaide to grace the event.
Australia’s foremost Sufi Qawwali Group, led by the multi-award-winning Sufi Rockstar Farhan Shah, dubbed as the “Pakistani Pavarotti” by Advertiser, enthralled the audience with their soul-stirring melodies.
The event reached a peak of excitement when renowned Australian singer Kamahl took the stage. After presenting the Farhan Shah brothers with a gift, Kamahl wowed the audience with a spontaneous performance of his own, belting out ‘Nature Boy’ and regaling everyone with hilarious anecdotes from his own life.
It was an electrifying and unforgettable moment that filled the room with laughter, applause, and a palpable sense of excitement.
The program featured a moving segment with three firefighters from Fire and Rescue NSW AUS02 task force, who shared their reflections on their time in Turkiye responding to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. They recounted their firsthand experiences, highlighting their selflessness, courage, and resilience in assisting those in need.
It was a poignant moment as the audience listened attentively, showcasing their unwavering commitment to humanitarian service in the face of adversity.
At the event, attendees expressed heartfelt support for global victims of wars, natural disasters, and calamities.
The evening featured an ‘Expression of Sentiments’ to honour those who lost lives, homes, and families. Ten faith leaders and representatives, including the Centre of Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Buddhist Council of NSW, Jewish Board of Deputies, Uniting Church of Australia, Hindu Council of Australia, Australian Zoroastrian Association of NSW, Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Australia and New Zealand, Office of the Ayatollah, Research Centre for Studies of the Second Vatican Council, and Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at Australian Catholic University, came together to showcase their collective compassion and solidarity with those in need.
This symbolic gathering reaffirmed their commitment to supporting communities facing adversity.
The evening continued in perfect harmony as the Guest of Honour, Amar, Founding President of Turbans 4 Australia INC, 2023 Australian Local Hero, and 2023 Volunteer Leader of the Year, took the stage.
He shared his inspiring life story and the journey of Turbans 4 Australia, emphasising the importance of multicultural diversity in creating a better home for future generations. His words resonated deeply with the audience, inspiring them to strive for a more inclusive and harmonious community.
The Hon Verity Firth, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Social Justice & Inclusion) at the University of Technology Sydney, expressed gratitude and extended a heartfelt vote of thanks at the Friendship & Dialogue Iftar Dinner and emphasised the importance of the Voice in Parliament in shaping inclusive societies.
Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Adviser of Amnesty International Australia and Affinity’s Advisory Board Member, delivered the concluding remarks at the event. He emphasised the significance of the holy month of Ramadan and highlighted the shared values of humanity, fellowship, harmony, charity, and respect that were evident throughout the evening.
The 14th annual Friendship and Dialogue Iftar dinner had truly been an unforgettable evening of connection, reflection, and celebration of the beauty of humanity, inspired by the words of Rumi and the spirit of intercultural understanding promoted by Affinity Intercultural Foundation.
The Friendship & Dialogue Iftar Dinner was made possible by the generous support of sponsors: Galaxy Foundation, The University of Sydney, Innovo Technology Solutions, Cultural Pulse, and other distinguished individuals.