The inaugural I’ll Dine With You event took place at City Square in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Guests sat along an 80-metre open-air table and exchanged conversations over food provided by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Lentil As Anything and Melbourne’s Sikh community. Australia’s Got Talent contestant Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa was the event MC.
The sold-out event was sponsored by more than 19 organisations, including the Uniting Church.
Approximately 40 volunteers helped out with preparing and organising the event. April Robinson from the synod’s Uniting Through Faiths unit was part of the event’s coordinating committee. She said the event was a powerful symbol of solidarity.
“The night before the I’ll Dine With You event, I found it near impossible to sleep. The reason for this was pure excitement,” Ms Robinson said.
“More than a tokenistic gesture of cultural cohesiveness, this event surmised the power of Melbourne’s multicultural existence. As so many people experience the fear and trauma of underlying racial and religious attitudes, I’ll Dine With You did what works in interfaith – it created relationships.
“The positive responses have by far exceeded what we had imagined and the residual effects are showing through new friendships and further I’ll Dine With You events being created around Melbourne. I feel an immense privilege to have been a part of this event.”
Other members of the coordinating committee included Rev Helen Summers, Nur Shkembi, Nada Kalam, Ayesha Bux, Monique Toohey and Dr Sue Ennis.
Ms Summers is founder and director of The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne, the main organisers of the event. She said the dinner was an opportunity to break down stereotypes and negative perceptions of people who come from different religious or cultural backgrounds.
“For every one person who has a positive experience of meeting someone outside one’s own circle, at least 10 other people will be informed and thus a wave of acceptance and appreciation may follow,” she said.
“Most fear of the other is due to a lack of understanding and limited opportunities to meet and socialise.”