During one of the last days of Ramadan; AIS and La Trobe University hosted an iftar dinner at La Trobe’s John Scott Meeting House on 24 July 2014. It was the last AIS iftar dinner of the year.
The evening’s master of ceremonies was Professor Nick Bisley; executive director of the La Trobe Asia initiative. Muammer Guler gave the call to prayer and recited several verses from the Quran, and a welcome speech was presented by Professor Jane Long; La Trobe’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).
Guest speakers included George Donikian; broadcaster and media personality; Eddie Micallef; chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria; and Safa Almarhoun; youth commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Each speech provided a different perspective on multiculturalism; with speakers referring to the impact of technological advances; the value of grassroots support and Victoria’s recent societal shifts in favour of diversity.
Connecting the theme of multiculturalism to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan; Ms Almarhoun explained; ‘Ramadan is a time to clarify our intentions and check our prejudices.’
Between speeches; the Istanbul Culture and Arts Centre; led by President Zakir Yildirim; performed three traditional Turkish songs for the audience.
Later on; audience members had the opportunity to share their reflections on the night’s program. A guest from South Korea said that his initial negative feelings towards Muslims changed for the better after he shared dinner with a new Muslim friend that evening.
Another guest related the hospitality of the La Trobe dinner with his recent visit to Turkey; saying; ‘When I went to Istanbul; people invited me (a stranger) to tea. Now I see where AIS gets it from.’
At the end of the evening; Inspector Christopher Large of the Victorian Police gave the vote of thanks. He noted that Melbourne’s gradual acceptance of diversity was a very welcome development. His speech was followed by an exchange of gifts and then concluding remarks from AIS Executive Director Ahmet Polat.
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