Australia's Grand Mufti holds multi-faith Ramadan dinner

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During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims across the country break their daily fast soon after the sun sets. But one special meal has brought together leaders of different faiths in a show of unity and goodwill.

At the Sydney offices of Australia's Grand Mufti, preparations are underway for Iftar - the evening meal where Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast.
 
While testing patience and endurance, Ramadan is also a time for reflection and solidarity.

All of them are qualities widely celebrated across a number of faiths, which is why Dr. Ibrahim Abu Mohammed's guest-list also includes members of various Christian denominations.
 
"Our guests tonight will find a home, and a heart with much love for them," Dr. Mohammed told SBS through an interpreter. "I don't see them as 'others'. We are one with the same missions. 
 
"To me, an 'other' is someone who goes against the real traits of humanity, even if they're Muslim. 
 
"Someone who differs in culture or country, I consider them part of the same family, even if we do things differently."
 
In an attempt to dispel ongoing misconceptions about Muslims, the Grand Mufti has been encouraging Islamic leaders and followers to open their doors to the wider community.
 
It's an invitation several Christian churches have accepted and extended back to them, including the Venerable Rod Bower, the Anglican Archdeacon of the New South Wales Central Coast.
 
"Interfaith dialogue and interfaith friendships are quite counter-intuitive," he said. "Birds of a feather tend to want to flock together. But I think Australian people as a whole are very gracious. 
 
"Given the opportunity, like Iftar dinners, they soon see through that stereotyping."
 
In recent years, multi-faith Iftars have been staged more widely throughout Australia. Another guest, Coptic Orthodox Priest Father Shenouda Mansour, noted that breaking bread is a much more effective way for people of different faiths to express and share ideas.
 
"If I want to build a relationship, I have it over a meal," he said. "Otherwise, formalities build walls rather than breaks walls; it's (about) sitting down here, hearing each other's stories, looking at the real human being rather than having a label."
 
Anna Ektoros was invited to attend the dinner by a close friend. Having never taken part in an Iftar before, she approached it with some hesitation.
 
"I wasn't sure what to expect," she said. "What am I meant to do? What am I meant to wear? What do I say? 
 
"I think it's really great at making it less unknown to people like myself, who are just part of the community."
 
The Grand Mufti has said he will hold hold more multi-faith Iftars in the future, in the hope they will be bigger and more diverse than ever.

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