It was a historic occasion at Scots Memorial Uniting Church as the congregation became the first church in Tasmania to host an Iftar dinner earlier this month.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims break their daily fast at sunset with an Iftar dinner. It typically begins with a call to prayer and eating of dates, followed by a shared meal.
The Scots Memorial congregation prepared the Iftar meal, with Tasmanian Muslim Association vice president Kazi Sabbir offering guidance on halal requirements.
Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis was a special guest at the meal and encouraged Christians and Muslims to learn from one another’s faith traditions.
“When we live as friends we both learn more about ourselves and the other without needing to gloss over the disagreements or pretend we don’t have differences as well as shared values,” Ms Hollis said.
“We will discover that we view fasting in both different and similar ways, that prayer is important to both faiths while practiced differently, that worship shapes each person of faith but the nature of that shaping has distinct contours.
“When this is done in a spirit of respect and friendship we enhance each other’s understanding of our faith and the other’s faith, contribute to the wellbeing of society and make peace possible.”
St Thomas Uniting Church in Craigieburn and Carlton Church of All Nations also opened their doors to their Muslim neighbours as they each hosted an Iftar dinner during Ramadan, which began on 15 May and finishes on 14 June.
Close to 100 people gathered at Carlton Church of All Nations last Saturday at an event organised by the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Victorian Council of Churches.
Leaders from the faith traditions explained the significance of Ramadan and Pentecost as attendees were invited to light a candle as a symbol of interfaith solidarity.
Former Uniting Church president and Tasmanian moderator Dr Jill Tabart led Pentecost prayers while the Muslim guests prayed in the upstairs church hall.
“Faith with understanding is a phrase that gets thrown around a bit,” Dr Tabart said.
“Often we think of it within our own faith traditions so we can be more faithful in our following.
“But in today’s world with a number of faiths in our community, the importance of understanding why people believe what they believe means it’s imperative that we understand what it is that drives people and how we can learn from each other.”
Islamic Council Victoria general manager Ayman Islam said the Iftar dinner was a great demonstration of interfaith friendship.
“It’s important for us to show, particularly from a faith tradition, that Christians are very close to Muslims and that they’ve been very supportive of us throughout our journey,” Mr Islam said.
“It’s great to be hosted in a church and great for the Muslim community to come in and experience that warmth and welcome.
“It’s important to have these kind of events because it really breaks down stereotypes and barriers – there’s really nothing like food to bring out conversations.”