Friendship and welcome in abundance
April 29, 2022
The spirit of friendship and welcome was in abundance at the annual Building Harmony Iftar Dinner hosted by the Uniting Church in Australia and Affinity Intercultural Foundation on 27 April.
More than 80 guests across the community and people of different faiths came together at St Stephens Uniting Church in the Sydney CBD to share a meal as part of the ritual breaking of the fast for Muslims during Ramadan.
The annual Iftar Dinner is co-hosted by the Uniting Church Assembly, the Synod of NSW/ACT and Uniting (NSW.ACT) with our friends from the Affinity Intercultural Foundation. It was the ninth Building Harmony Iftar.
UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis and Affinity Executive Director Mr Ahmet Polat offered welcome speeches as co-hosts.
“Occasions like tonight are wonderful opportunities for people to cross boundaries, to learn more from one another and to build bridges of friendship and harmony in our community,” said Rev Hollis.
“It is my understanding and my experience that being in relationship with people of other faiths can deeply enrich our own understandings of faith, and of God.”
Mr Polat spoke about the significance this year of important religious celebrations of different faiths taking place around the same time, particularly Easter, Ramadan and Passover. He shared how Ramadan is a time for fasting, generosity and hospitality for Muslims. Each year Affinity co-ordinates a program of home Iftar meals where Muslims around Sydney invite guests to partake in the breaking of the fast and share in a meal at their family home.
The Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed was an honoured guest and offered a heartfelt reflection on the role of religions in peace building. Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finley delivered the Vote of Thanks.
The program included a panel of speakers - three chaplains whose work is deeply embedded in interfaith relationships, Revs Christine Gapes (Western Sydney University) and David Riethmuller (Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network) and Associate Professor Salim Farrar (University of Sydney).
Sharing on his previous role as NSW State Police Chaplain, Rev Riethmuller reflected, “There is a common humanity that binds us together regardless of faith or culture or background. It’s a brave person that lets their guard down, and that is willing to say, I’m just like you.”
Rev Dr Gapes spoke about how she aims to be present in as many ways as possible as a chaplain, so that when people really need someone, they know they can come to her. She gave examples of the power of conversations when they involve listening to one another across our differences.
Assoc Prof Salim Farrar spoke about the importance of actions that involve people from different faiths working together for the common good.
“We cannot retreat into our own sanctuaries, and our own identities, rather we must start by thinking of one another as fellow human beings.”
The fast was broken with a moving Call to Prayer by Bilal Kilic. A delicious meal of Afghan food was served. Later in the evening, Tarik Hussein and Yusek Hasanmiyan delivered a beautiful musical performance using the Qanun.
God’s spirit was truly present in the conversations shared and the crossing of boundaries to get to know one another.
See below pictures from this and other Iftar meals which have been hosted by or where Uniting Church members have been present.