Friday, 09 June 2017

Sharing love and community

Forty-five Uniting Church and Muslim friends gathered in a spirit of love and friendship at the Iftar Dinner hosted at St Thomas Uniting Church in Craigieburn in the north of Melbourne.

The Iftar meal is the breaking of the fast at sunset during Ramadan for Muslims.

The dinner was jointly organised by the Uniting Church and the Australian Intercultural Society (AIS) as a way of building friendship and understanding between the two faith communities.

VIC/TAS Associate General Secretary Isabel Thomas Dobson attended the evening with Uniting Church members and Muslims guests seated alongside each other.

Minister at St Thomas Rev. Peter Weeks and the church community provided a warm welcome to their Muslim guests, even as AIS friends continued to arrive through the evening, near doubling the expected number of guests.

“It was like feeding the multitudes as families of new AIS friends kept arriving,” said Larry Marshall from VIC/TAS Synod’s Uniting through Faiths.

“Our church people just set up another table and chairs and glasses and plates.”

“It was the easy warmth of the conversations which made the night so pleasant. New relationships were formed as children were introduced and grandparents welcomed into the fold.”

The evening opened with a letter from the President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan. Fatih Tuncer welcomed guests on behalf of AIS.

The Call to Prayer was sung before the breaking of the fast.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre catered for the dinner and the desserts were home-made by St Thomas parishioners.

Omer Atilla Ergi from AIS shared on the meaning of Ramadan and the reasons for fasting, sparking new conversations at the tables.

Larry shared from the writings of Dave Andrews, a devout Christian who in 2012 fasted through Ramadan and pondered the meaning of this special time with his Muslim and Christian friends.

A respectful minute’s silence was observed for the victims of violence around the world.

“There were many calls from those gathered for more of these interfaith opportunities for deepening our dialogue and our friendship,” said Larry.

St Thomas Church Council Chairperson Ray Benson added, "What a positive night, with tonnes of smiles and goodwill. We certainly are a vibrant community in today's society with some great stories to tell.”

Larry congratulated the St Thomas Church community on the evening and thanked AIS for their partnership.

“It is our hope that many more will follow.”


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