Iftar dinner affirms interfaith dialogue

L-R Front: John McCarthy KC, Mehmet Ozalp, Bishop Richard Umbers, Sr Giovanni Farquer, Shafiq R. Abdullah Khan, Iman Amin Hady. L-R Back: Mehmet Saral, Shigenobu Watanabe, Safia Khan Hassanein, Jennifer Abrar, Sonali Luthra, Anne Cummins. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has emphasised the importance of interfaith dialogue as a means of resolving conflict and helping to promote peace in a troubled world at the 14th annual Iftar Dinner on 14 March at Cathedral House.

The dinner brings together representatives from different faith traditions in a spirit of conviviality and friendship to honour the Muslim community in their fasting month of Ramadan.

The Iftar Dinner is a powerful example of how interfaith dialogue can help nurture long term friendships and mutual understanding between people across many different faith traditions, Archbishop Fisher told the gathering.

Some blame religious differences for most of the worlds conflicts and sometimes these differences are indeed co-opted to such bad ends. But rather than being part of the problem, we religious leaders can be part of the solution, he explained.

Gatherings like this one, amidst all the tensions in the world, signify deep bonds of humanity and faith and reflect our determination to bring the peace of God to our community.

The archbishop emphasised that the call for peace is one shared across religious faiths.
According to the Holy Quran, Al-Salaam, Peace, is one of Gods names, he said.

When the Prophet received his first revelation near Mecca, inner peace came with divine insight. When his disciples were abused by pagan neighbours, the Quran praises the servants of the All-Merciful, who walk humbly upon the earth, and when the ignorant taunt them reply Peace!

The Prophet describes heaven as a place where there is no bad speech or sinful talk, only the words Peace, Peace.

To submit to Gods order and harmony is to love Him and our neighbour. But war prefers self-will to obedience, power to humility, hardness of heart to compassion, revenge to mercy.

It offends against the divine geometry of the cosmos. Peacemaking is the will of God and responsibility of all who work in His name.

Archbishop Fisher told those gathered for the Iftar Dinner that we can all draw inspiration from Pope Francis and his call for a lasting peace, especially in the troubled Holy Land.

Last month, Pope Francis condemned all forms of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, as he has in the past anti-Islamic and anti-Christian feeling, speech and behaviour, the archbishop said.

Hateful attitudes and acts towards believers of other faiths are, he insists, a sin against God. The Pope said his heart was torn by the conflict in the Holy Land and the ill-will it reflects and magnifies.

He prays constantly for peace and insists that his heart is close to all in the Holy Lands; Jews, Muslims and Christians alike and his prayer is that the desire for peace may prevail in all, he said.

In recognition of the sad turmoil currently confronting the Holy Land, members of the St Marys Cathedral choir sang Psalms and Lamentations at this years dinner as guests united in a prayer for peace.

The Founder and Managing Director of Al Faisal Colleges, Dr Shafiq Khan, has been a long-time supporter of the annual Iftar dinners at Cathedral House.

He believes they play a pivotal role in helping to nurture interfaith friendships in Sydney and beyond.

The Catholic Church has a great tradition of interfaith dialogue and we see this very much at the international level, with Pope Francis forging a strong friendship with the Islamic leader, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, promising to work together to promote peace, Dr Khan said.

In Sydney, we are very grateful to Archbishop Anthony Fisher for continuing that same spirit of interfaith friendship at the local level.

The Co-Founder of Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Mehmet Saral, has also attended many Iftar dinners at Cathedral House and believes the event is a wonderful display of interfaith harmony.

Archbishop Fisher is a great visionary and a genuine believer in interfaith dialogue. I think its so important that this tradition continues, Saral told The Catholic Weekly.

As creatures of God, its critical that we break bread together in a spirit of shared humanity.

We should also acknowledge that this is a non-political dinner for representatives from different religious faiths which is in itself a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other.

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