Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
3 Aug 2012
Guests representing 12 different belief traditions attended the first Iftar Dinner hosted by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, in Cathedral House last night.
In a world where there is often intolerance of different and varying beliefs, the dinner was a sign of mutual respect, friendship and hope for the future.
Iftar refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan and is a religious observance often shared within a community with people gathering to break their fast together.
Present at the dinner were representatives from the Catholic Eastern Rite Chuches - Bishop Ad Abikaram representing the Maronites, the Most Rev Archimandrite Paul Sayegh, the Melkite Greek Vicar General representing the Melkites and the Regional Vicar of Opus Dei for Australia and New Zealand, Fr Victor Martinez along with auxiliary bishops and priests from the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Other Christian traditions represented included the Coptic Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, Armenian Church, Antiochian Orthodox Church as well as Bishops and priests from the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Guests also included Dr Vivek Thakkar representing Hindu Youth, the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Mr Peter Wertheim, Rabbi Kamins from the Emanuel Synagogue and other members of the Jewish community.
The Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Muhammad, also expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Cardinal Pell on behalf of the whole Muslim community for hosting the dinner.
His key message was that such events contribute strongly to the building up of peace and harmony among all faiths.
Cardinal Pell said during the dinner that gatherings like this are really one of the fruits of tolerance that flourishes in Australian society and is a sign of respect for diversity.
He said all the belief traditions gathered at the dinner have a common respect for human life.
"We are all called to be instruments of peace and harmony among aggressors and those who practice terrorism although we worship the one God in different ways," Cardinal Pell said.
"We gather united in our plans for respect and friendship."
Organiser of the dinner and Director of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations, Dr Giovanni Farquar,rsj, said she believed this was an "Iftar first" as it was the first time a dinner had been hosted in the home of the Archbishop of Sydney for this particular gathering.
She said she was most grateful so many leaders and representatives of the different belief traditions attended the dinner and hoped it would become an annual event.
Following the evening Cardinal Pell said it was a most enjoyable night held in an atmosphere of friendship and learning.