On the 6th of May 2019, The Australian Intercultural Society along with Victorian Parliamentarians co-hosted the 14th annual Victorian State Parliament Iftar Dinner, MC’d by Madeleine Morris, a journalist for the 7:30 report on the ABC.
The program began with a recitation of the Qur’an by Enbiya Hisar, which was followed by welcome speeches from the Honorable Richard Wynne MP (Multicultural Affairs Minister), Mr Neil Angus (Shadow Multicultural Affairs Minister) and AIS executive director Ahmet Keskin. In a statement that struck audience members deeply, Minister Wynne called upon society in saying that it is our responsibility as a nation to become “intolerant of intolerance.” He pointed out that interculturalism is the greatest part of Victoria, making it the best place to live and co-exist. Mr Angus later stressed the importance of programs such a these as allowing us to “show respect, understanding, and tolerance of ethnicity, beliefs, and religion” among all human beings in Victoria, Australia and the rest of the world. Ahmet stressed the importance of creating an environment which shutdown hate speech whilst striking a balance with freedom of speech.
After Ahmet’s speech, dinner was served and the ramadan fast was broken at tables of people from every religious and ethnic background, all gathered in celebration of this special holiday as the keynote speaker, Nicole Livingstone, began her speech.
Ms Livingstone is a former australian olympic swimmer, and now holds the AFL title of head of women’s football as of 16 November, 2017. She addressed the true comradery that sports, particularly Football promotes, stating that “sport delivers connection and belonging” in the community. It is something that people from all walks of life can join together to play, cheer, celebrate, and appreciate, despite any ethnic, religious or cultural differences. The purpose of the AFL was refreshed in recent years to say that the “purpose [is] to progress the game so that everyone can share in its heritage and possibilities”, which provides a safe and welcoming community for any who want to be involved. The AFL celebrates diversity by “rejecting racism and division” and “promoting Unity and Inclusion.. And working respectfully with multicultural communities.” It is with these values that we hope to create a world where all are comfortable and respected in all they do.
Livingstone’s speech was followed by a beautiful performance by Sinan Bekir Pamuk as he played the Oud and sang a poem entitled “Awake”.
The night concluded with floor reflections and a vote of thanks, offered by Peter Filopoulos, CEO of Football Victoria which wrapped up a night of respect, compassion, and camaraderie among all groups of people who attended.