On Thursday St Thomas’ Uniting Church in Craigieburn will host an Iftar dinner, the traditional Islamic breaking of the fast meal held at sundown during the period of Ramadan.
Twelve people will attend from St Thomas and 12 from the local Turkish Muslim community.
Diners will sit at six tables with an equal representation of Christians and Muslims.
“The aim is to have an improved understanding of our Muslim neighbours, their life and culture,” St Thomas minister Rev Peter Weeks said.
“Not many people from our congregation have had interaction with people of different faiths.”
Mr Weeks has asked for people to arrive by 4.45 as there will be a word of welcome and the call to prayer before the dinner begins at 5.10pm.
A presentation during the evening will discuss the meaning and significance of Ramadan to Muslims.
Mr Weeks said this fitted well with a recent Lenten study which looked at some of the parallels between Lent and Ramadan, including fasting, alms giving and prayer. The study also examined the differences between the religious celebrations.
Organised by the church in partnership with Uniting Through Faiths, the meal is being catered by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre with desserts provided by congregation members.
Mr Weeks said that that recent terror attacks meant it was more important than ever to build local relationships. Although his congregation well understands such attacks were committed by extremists who weren’t representative of how the vast majority of Muslims practice their faith, events like this were important to increase understanding and demolish myths.
Uniting Church congregations will also be hosting Iftar dinners in Sydney and Melbourne.
President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan said the Iftar dinners were one way of building greater harmony in the community.
“The sharing of the Iftar meal between Muslims and Christians has become a powerful symbol of love for neighbour,” Mr McMillan said.
“I am glad that Uniting Church members will share this time with Muslim friends, particularly as we mourn and condemn recent terror attacks across the world.
“The greatest defence we have against terrorism is to replace fear and hate with love.”
There are still two to three St Thomas’ delegation places available for the Iftar dinner and anyone interested should contact Peter Weeks on 9308 1258.