28 March 2024

Wollongong shares a 'peaceful and magical' Ramadan meal as community stands together

| Zoe Cartwright
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More than 100 people gathered for a very special Iftar in Wollongong on Sunday 24 March.

More than 100 people gathered for a very special iftar in Wollongong on Sunday 24 March. Photo: Indrek Torilo.

For many members of the Muslim community in Wollongong, Ramadan this year has been a tough one.

Unrelenting war and starvation in Gaza has left hearts across the Illawarra community heavy, and for those who have friends and family who are directly affected it’s all the more painful.

On Sunday 24 March more than 100 people gathered in Wollongong for a public iftar, or evening meal to break the fast during the month of Ramadan.

The event was attended by Muslim and non-Muslim community members alike and featured an evening meal donated by six local businesses, Mahghrib prayers, and a special prayer (dua) for Palestine.

Ticketing was on a ‘pay what you can’ basis, and attendees raised more than $5000 for The MATW Project, a charity currently operating in Gaza.

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One of the organisers, Jet Hunt, said the event was part of the ongoing recognition of the thousands of Gazans enduring famine due to the Israeli Government’s ongoing refusal to allow safe passage for emergency aid, including food and water.

“We held this event to raise funds for Gaza, but also to bring our community together,” Jet said.

“For 25 weeks, Wollongong has rallied to support Palestine, to fight against the complicity of our government with this genocide, and the strong links between Wollongong’s local industry and the Israeli Occupying Forces’ wanton destruction of life in Palestine.

“It’s also vital that we hold space for our community to be together, and to gather our strength.”

Another organiser, Dina Tharwat Ali, said the iftar was also an opportunity for community solidarity, and for members of the Muslim community to share their culture and values.

Attendees said they were pleasantly surprised by the warm and welcoming atmosphere.

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“This Ramadan has been a particularly difficult one for Muslims,” said attendee May Fahmi.

“As a Muslim, breaking fast with a community whose hearts are with Palestine was an uplifting and beautiful experience.”

The event helped to build connections across people of different faiths.

Some attendees experienced Ramadan for the first time.

“I had never been to an iftar, so I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect,” said Sharon Settecasse.

“We felt welcomed; we enjoyed sharing food and being part of the community celebration.”

One of the event organisers, Yossra Aboulfadl said the event gave her a sense of belonging and peace during a difficult time.

“The event felt so peaceful and magical,” she said.

“When the sun set, everyone was silent while breaking their fast with a date … as Muslims, we felt we really belonged to this community.”

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