On the second day of Ramadan this year, Pearl of the Islands Foundation Inc. (PIF) co-hosted its first ever Iftar dinner with the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Over 80 people attended comprising mainly of academics and community/religious leaders from various ethnicities and backgrounds.
Dr Valance Smith, Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor at AUT, was the Master of Ceremony. The AUT Choir sang for us to open the evening. This was followed by the ‘Call to Prayer’ announced by Mohamed Soliman, which marks the time when Muslims ‘break their fast’. An international buffet with foods from Morocco, Turkey, Malaysia, and India served. Quran recitation followed the dinner break.
In his welcome speech, Dr Andrew Codling, Head of Vice-Chancellor’s Office at AUT, spoke highly of PIF’s work, “Having known them for quite some time, I’m amazed and astounded the work this small and dedicated group of people do and it’s a delight for AUT to be partnering with them for this event.”
Abdul Gelim, Director at PIF, explained how Ramadan is becoming a month which embraces everyone, “Coming together here at one table is really a situation of richness. And this table fellowship offers remarkable opportunities for mutual understanding, sympathy, acceptance, and friendship. Tonight’s union demonstrates that in society, people can come together and live together regardless of faith, ethnicity or dissimilar worldviews… and we sincerely hope that this gathering benefits all.”
Professor Edwina Pio, AUT Director of Diversity, gave the keynote speech on the night. She emphasised the significance of the role in which we play in society. “Sacred activists are compassionate disrupters, tempered radicals, who in the face of growing injustice, suffering and violence are committed to being a source of hope, energy and change, and this is each of us.” Edwina finished off with a gentle reminder, “Difference is a blessing. Let us give thanks for our many blessings.”
A variety of Turkish desserts were served and the Maori Student Association performed a Waiata (song) before the floor reflections. These Reflections allowed guests to share their thoughts and experiences.
Sheikh Rafat Najm provided the vote of thanks by recounting his memories following the Christchurch tragedy. He finished his remarks by urging is to continue loving and accepting one another.
The co-hosts of the evening presented each other with gifts of appreciation. This event was made possible partly thanks to AUT’s contribution.