Maha Abdo OAM, head of the Muslim Women’s association and human rights and social justice advocate, gave a moving keynote speech about interfaith dialogue and engaging heart to heart in dialogue with each other. Maha asked guests to reflect on what is in their heart in the final days of Ramadan and their purpose of “being here tonight breaking their fast” at the annual Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT and Affinity Intercultural Foundation joint Iftar Dinner
On the 23 June, people of different faiths gathered at the annual Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT and Affinity Intercultural Foundation joint Iftar Dinner (Breaking of the Fast).
It was a special occasion with tradition, ceremony and food shared among friends from many faiths. As is the Muslim tradition during the month of Ramadan the daily fast was broken at sunset, and guests were called to prayer by Ibrahim Karaisli head of Religion and Values department Amity College. Brothers and sisters in interfaith shared a beautifully prepared halal food banquet.
Jim Mein AM was MC for the evening. He is recognised for his role in facilitating ongoing discussion and collaboration between Muslims involved with the Affinity Intercultural Foundation and representatives from the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Churches, in NSW.
Moderator Rev. Myung Hwa Park welcomed guests, “the Uniting Church has a special spirit, we are a Church that is open and seeks the spirit. We affirm the spirit in all other people because God created all in God’s image and in that we are here to learn to relate, love and share God’s goodness.”
Maha Abdo OAM, head of the Muslim Women’s association and human rights and social justice advocate, gave a moving keynote speech about interfaith dialogue and engaging heart to heart in dialogue with each other. Maha asked guests to reflect on what is in their heart in the final days of Ramadan and their purpose of “being here tonight breaking their fast.”
Maha has worked in interfaith dialogue for the last 30 years which began as women of all faiths coming together to understand more about each other’s faiths. They sought not to “change one another but to respect each other.”
Maha spoke in the moment and engaged from the heart “unless I know who I am I can’t understand who you are. I hold my faith in my heart.”
Reflecting on her response to the recent horrific Orlando mass shooting that touched our hearts she said, “we need to respect our differences, but I don’t need to compromise my principles. My faith and tradition has its principles intact. It doesn’t mean if I respect and love you it is going to damage or undermine my principles rather it will enrich them.”
Reflecting on how much has happened since the siege in Martin Place and the Parramatta shooting she said, “As Muslims we are not given the chance to mourn, we can’t because we own it. We are forced to own something that we don’t even have anything to do with.”
At about the same time as the world was mourning the death and celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali it brought Islam to a different level. Muhammad Ali was celebrated as the peaceful face of Islam, “a faith of power and peace and not violence,” said Maha.
“How do we build a balance to do things for love not out of fear?”
As Orlando occurred in the month of Ramadan Maha speaks openly about the division it caused. “It was felt in the month of discipline so we needed to do something for this group walking in pain.”
A media statement was released by the Muslim community against the violence that happened and “in support of walking with our brothers and sisters from the LGBTQI community.”
In a significant response, the LGBTQI community last week responded with a statement in support of the Muslim statement
Maha works with children and women escaping domestic violence providing services to all communities regardless of faith. Muslim women are providing services to Christian women and are breaking down barriers.
Maha believes with more laws for anti-racism the social fabric of our society is actually deteriorating. “People are fearful of speaking to one another because we need to be politically correct. We need to be respectful and mindful of what we say but we cannot supress what we need to say and people of faith have lost their voice. What we are being pushed to is that you are either with us or against us.”
“We have done ourselves an injustice as people of various faiths. We have created a gap between one another but now we are building bridges to overcome it. We need to come closer to each other we need to respect our differences.
“We need to open the dialogue and create a safe space.
“It is not about all the different faiths, it is about the purpose and the way we live our lives.”
Maha asked guests “in our intentions to allow our actions to be the best they can be, producing the best for the common good for all of us together as Australians that come from different paths and different parts of the world.”
“I hope sincerely we are able to come together and allow this relationship to continue and to take it with us wherever we go and that we begin the process of change what can be changed. That’s the first step.”
(Pictured) Maha Abdo OAM, head of the Muslim Women’s Association, The Moderator Rev. Myung Hwa Park and guest Gael Kennedy, Community Relations Acting Chair, Jewish Board of Deputies.