The Victorian Premier’s Iftar Dinner was a symbol of multiculturalism at its finest, with representatives from all faiths in attendance. I had the privilege of being seated beside Minister Melissa Horne along with a senior Jewish rabbi and Imam Shykh Mohammad Ramzan, amongst many others.
This is the seventh year the dinner is being held, though last year it was organised in COVID-19 fashion as an online event.
In the speeches by the Acting Premier James Merlino and Victoria’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence, reference was made to the importance of diversity and difference and how these ideals are important in making our state such a vibrant and welcoming place. Mr Merlino also noted how much he enjoyed his work as the state’s Education Minister by visiting schools and seeing so many smiling faces at school assembly all from so many different parts of the world.
In his address, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, the Grand Mufti of Australia, made specific reference to the relevance of peace in the Muslim faith in that the greeting commences with the words “may peace be with you”. Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed also reflected on how important it is to protect multiculturalism in Australia. The need to be vaccinated was emphasised by Dr Ibrahim Mohammed as being an essential duty of all of us.
Being seated with Iman Mohammad Ramzan, I had the opportunity to talk to him about his daily work. I learnt about the terrific work being done by him in the prison sector. A challenging role but one which Iman Mohammad Ramzan takes great pride in. Keeping people out of prison is an important part of what he sees as his job.
I felt blessed to be an Australian the other night at the Iftar Dinner. I felt blessed to be in a country that respected each person’s faith and ethnicity. I also felt lucky to be in the company of many great people.
Australia is one of the few countries globally that truly practices multiculturalism and respects all faiths. Events such as these bring us together.
Bill Papastergiadis is the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne and the Managing Partner of Moray & Agnew’s Melbourne office.