In partnership with the Australian Intercultural Society and supported by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University was delighted to host a 2019 Iftar Dinner featuring an insightful interfaith panel.
Hosted by Professor Jane den Hollander, Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University, and Mr Ahmet Keskin, Executive Director of the Australian Intercultural Society, Deakin’s iftar dinners bring together staff, students, community members and faith leaders during Ramadan to share a meal in the spirit of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.
‘Iftar’ is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast at the end of the day during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is as opportunity for members of the community, regardless of their faith, to come together for a meal, as a symbol of friendship and intercultural dialogue.
After a recital from the Quran and the adhan, or Islamic call to Prayer, delivered by Deakin alumnus Mr Ahmad Wamiq Ghowsi, the breaking of the fast began with dates and water, a tradition dating back to the time of Prophet Muhammad.
An interfaith panel was included as part of the evening’s proceedings featuring Mrs Sherene Hassan, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Islamic Museum of Australia, Rabbi Zalman Kastel, Director of Together for Humanity Foundation, and The Reverend Dr Robert Derrenbacker, Dean of the Theological School at Trinity College, and moderated by Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.
In the wake of major terror attacks against faith communities in New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the US, the panel spoke pointedly on the theme of ‘Living Well with Difference’, highlighting the need to build cross-cultural and inter-faith empathy and solidarity to combat rising instances of hate speech and violent extremism.
A common theme that emerged from all panellists was concerned with the power of ignorance in building barriers across difference, and they highlighted the need for opportunities like interfaith iftars to counter this ignorance whilst celebrating our diversity.
In addition to the interfaith panel, Aleyana Altinors, a year 9 student at Sirius College, gave a moving reading of an original spoken word poem dedicated to women of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds, and specifically to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander.
Victorian MPs Mr Frank McGuire, MP for Broadmeadows, and Mr Neil Angus, MP for Forest Hill, both members of ADI’s Advisory Board, in a display of bipartisanship, delivered powerful short speeches on the importance of embracing and championing Victoria’s diversity.