First dates can be pretty awkward encounters, especially when you have nothing to talk about, but there were plenty of energetic conversations at the Speed Date a Muslim event held at St John’s Uniting Church Elsternwick in August.
Approximately 40 people from different faith backgrounds came together to hear the firsthand experiences of Muslim women over coffee and tea.
Participants were invited to enter conversations with an open heart and mind.
The interfaith community event was organised by The Side Door’s Social Justice Hub, based at St John’s Uniting Church in Elsternwick.
The participants at the St John’s Uniting Church gathering consisted of roughly equal numbers of Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Healesville Uniting Church member Heather Hysted attended the event with her husband and described it as a “wonderful experience”.
“We got to extend our friendship network by meeting two women who had diverse stories to share about the Islamic religion and their everyday lives,” Ms Hysted said.
“How fortunate we felt to be extended such warm hospitality, and to have the opportunity to acknowledge our consistent values and common humanity with these wonderful women.
“We are enriched by their generosity. My only complaint about the event was that it went too quickly!”
Rev Philip Liebelt, minister of St John’s and co-chair of The Side Door’s steering committee, said he was delighted at the interfaith spirit on show during the event.
The speed-dating concept was created by chef Hana Assafiri at her Moroccan Soup Bar cafe in Fitzroy North last year.
“Hana was really pleased to be doing this in a Christian church complex,” Mr Liebelt said.
“Some of her team even took the opportunity to pray in the church after conversations had ended.”
Born in Australia but raised in Morocco and Lebanon, Ms Assafiri wanted to create a safe space where people can ask Muslims about their faith and culture.
A follow-up interfaith peace gathering and shared meal was held on 17 September to coincide with UN Peace Day.