Thursday, 15 June 2017

"Love is a verb"

More than 120 people gathered to break bread in the spirit of love and friendship at the Iftar dinner held at Parramatta Mission.

Hosted by the Uniting Church and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, the gathering included local members of Parliament, police, religious and community leaders, representatives of other faiths as well as Uniting Church and Muslim members.

Keynote speaker was the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

In his welcome address, Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan said the Iftar Dinner provided a powerful symbol of love for neighbour.

“As we mourn and condemn recent terror attacks across the world, we know that love and understanding will always triumph over fear and hate,” he said.

“By coming here tonight, we offer a different narrative to the voices of fear and division in the Australian community.”

“We pray for God to grant us the strength to passionately pursue a more welcoming, inclusive and peaceful community where all may live in harmony – and encourage others to do the same.”

Affinity Executive Director Ahmet Polat said it was a privilege to see how Ramadan, the sacred month for Muslims, had become a time where all faiths and cultures came together.

“By being here tonight, we are not just simply sharing a meal, we are renewing a pledge to work together to fight discrimination and bigotry,” said Ahmet.

“All of us while embracing our faith most sincerely, should accept and respect the presence of other religious traditions and philosophies. Love is a verb, seeing that in action should be our dream.” 

Mufti Mona

In his speech read by Mona Abdelraheem, the Grand Mufti called on people of faith to follow the message of all religions to love one another.

 “In the Holy Bible it says: ‘Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4: 7-8).’

“Ladies and gentleman, thank God that in spite of the hatred we encounter, there are people in Australia who have the ethos of love and awareness.”

“Love is the key to changing hearts, minds and entire societies. The message of our faiths is clear. In that to be in service of others is the quickest route to spreading love.

“Let us make Australia the leading nation in promoting mutual love in our wonderful multicultural context.”

The fast was broken at the start of the evening by the Adhan, the Call to Prayer, sung by Furkan Sami.

Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College provided the melodic Qu’ran recitation (Chapter 55: Ar-Rahman. Verses 1-34) and translated a section for guests.  

Primary school students in the Amity College Choir gave a heartening performance of five Australian-themed songs, including “I am Australian” with an Auslan interpretation. 

Iftar choir

At the conclusion, floor reflections were offered by Member for Granville Julia Finn, Det Inspector Bradley Element from Parramatta Local Area Command, Uniting NSW.ACT Director of Mission Rev. Rick Morrell and Mehmet Ozalp Executive Director of Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA).

A vote of thanks was offered by Jim Mein from the NSW/ACT Synod and Mehmet Saral from Galaxy Foundation.

The Iftar Dinner was organised jointly by Affinity, and the Uniting Church Assembly and NSW/ACT Synod and supported by Uniting NSW.ACT. 

It is one of three Iftar dinners co-hosted by the Uniting Church this year, with the final dinner being hosted in Brisbane on Sunday. The first was in Melbourne at St Thomas Uniting Church in Craigieburn. 

Iftar eating

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