Iftar Dinner in conjunction with the Australian Intercultural Society (AIS).
Instead of our regular Tuesday breakfast meeting, nearly 30 RCCMS members joined about 60 guests at 5:45pm to partake of Iftar, the breaking of the Muslim daily fast during Ramadan, in the office of the Australian Intercultural Society (AIS).
Guests included dignitaries, such as Dr Peter Hollingsworth, former Governor General of Australia, Kerem Birinci and Selahattin Tumer, from the Turkish Consulate, and Frank McGuire, State Member of Parliament for Broadmeadows.  Rotary was represented by D9800 District Governor, Dr Murray Verso and President Roy Garrett, while AIS was represented by Ahmet Polat, its Executive Director.
Andrew Crisp, Assistant Commissioner of Police for Northwest Metropolitan Region, was the MC for a very tightly timed and busy evening’s program, designed both to educate attendees about Ramadan and to share in a celebratory meal.
Guests started arriving at 4:45pm, sufficient time to enjoy some pre dinner fellowship. Andrew invited Roy Garrett and then Ahmet Polat to welcome their guests.  President Roy said this was a breakthrough evening for RCCMS, an essentially monocultural club but one that recognises the need to diversify its membership and better appreciate other cultures.  Ahmet Polat said that AIS has been arranging Iftars, both large and small, for the past 15 years with the aim of increasing community understanding, strengthening social cohesion and contributing to a better society.
At 5:25pm Andrew stated that in mosques around the world the call to the early evening prayer signals the end of the fast and the beginning of the Iftar dinner.  He called on Ali Gurdag, Sergeant at Melbourne East Police Station, to make the Arabic call to prayer or azan.  After the prayer dinner commenced with the traditional dates and water followed by a delicious Turkish meal, including a lamb stew hünkar be─Łendi (“the Sultan’s delight”).
After dinner Mustafa Kadioglu, who teaches Religion and Values at Sirius College, recited from the Holy Quran, Chapter 55: Ar-Rahman, Verses 1-25, whilst a translation was projected onto a screen.
The first speaker of the evening was Omer Atilla Ergi, the General Coordinator of the Serenity Islamic Research Academy, whose topic was the significance of Ramadan.  He said that Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month in the Islamic calendar when all Muslims, above the age of puberty, fast from sun up to sun down.  Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and an obligatory act of worship.  He explained there are three aspects to fasting: physical, spiritual and social.  Fasting is good physically because it leads to detoxification and spiritually because it curbs carnal desire and allows the worshipper to focus on spiritual matters.  Its social importance is that it leads to the tradition, initiated by Abraham, of sharing food which helps to build bridges and develop strong friendships.
Guests were then entertained with a performance by a whirling dervish.  His dance is an act of meditation done by Sufi Muslims.  By revolving from right to left around the heart the dancer, or semazen, embraces all humanity with love.  He was accompanied on the lute by Zakir Yildirim, President of the Istanbul Arts and Culture Centre, and Burak Kula on the guitar.
The second keynote speaker for the evening was Murray Verso, who gave a succinct explanation of Rotary, its origins, history, philosophy and major projects.  He said that right from the beginning Paul Harris identified friendship as the motive power of Rotary.  Murray explained that the Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service, based on four principles: development of friendships, high ethics, advancement of international understanding and service above self.
As a sign of appreciation, speakers and organisers of the evening’s event were then presented with gifts, because Prophet Muhammad once said “he who does not thank people does not thank God”.
Following the presentation of gifts Frank McGuire spoke and said that his electorate of Broadmeadows has the highest Muslim and Turkish population of any electorate in Victoria.  He recalled the words of Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Attatürk who in 1934 wrote a tribute to the Anzacs who died at Gallipoli and said “there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now”.  Frank said the Johnnies and Mehmets live side by side in Broadmeadows today.
A vote of thanks was presented by Teresa de Fazio, Commissioner at the Victorian Multicultural Commission, who continued the theme of friendship and building bridges.  She thanked the speakers and said their talks provided a lens through which we could see how powerful such fellowship can be.
Concluding remarks were provided by Ergun Kirmaci, AIS President, before the meeting ended at 7:40pm.