For the past five years, students from Isik Islamic Girls College (now Sirius College) in Broadmeadows met with the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Year 10 social justice group to share a meal and explore their diverse religious traditions and culture.
PEGS chaplain Evelyn Payne has continued the initiative started by former chaplain Rev Peter Batchelor.
The Iftar dinner signifies the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. It is now an annual feature of the Year 10 Social Justice program for students from the Moonee Ponds campus.
“Sharing cultural events and religious dialogue has deepened and enriched the PEGS’ students understanding of Islam and has produced a culture of understanding and empathy towards students who come from other religious traditions,” Ms Payne said.
She feels both schools set a positive example of reaching out to people from other religious traditions to further unity and acceptance within the wider Australian society.
“Many warm friendships have been created, and we value a glimpse into a vibrant and rich religious tradition, with which we share a common origin,” Ms Payne said.
Serra is in Year 9 at Sirius College. She feels that sharing the Iftar with students from other religious backgrounds led to a greater understanding of each other.
“By inviting these schools to such a religious occasion, they were able to better understand fasting in our religion,” Serra said.
“Though every human being is different, we were able to embrace our similarities and truly unite to enjoy the evening. We were able to keep the conversations flowing well, making the atmosphere very light and calm. I definitely enjoyed these activities and I am hoping that there will be many more to come.”
Year 10 PEGS student Bethany echoed the sentiments of many students as she spoke about forming new friendships.
“We all enjoyed the delicious food provided, but the evening was much more than that,” Bethany said.
“We were able to make new friends and gain a deeper understanding of how important the festival of Ramadan is to the Islamic community.
“At first we were shy, but the ice was soon broken after visiting the room where they performed their prayers prior to breaking the fast at sunset.
“We all experienced the warmth of their hospitality, and enjoyed learning more about their culture and beliefs.
“The evening was a huge success, and I am sure all students were delighted that they were given the opportunity to attend.”