Food again proved to be the best vehicle to bring people together for the common good as witnessed at Illawarra People For Peace's first Iftar Dinner earlier this month.
Representatives from the Uniting and Catholic Churches as well as the Nan Tien Temple joined members of the Omar and Bilal Mosques at the July 5 dinner at Samaras Restaurant in Woonona.
Keysar Trad from the Australian Islamic Friendship Association and Sheikh Mohommad Trad, founder of Islamhub.com.au from Sydney, also mingled with the 80 guests on the night.
Illawarra People For Peace co-chair Gary Ismail said the association considered interfaith Iftars a way of celebrating the success of Australian multiculturalism through a common need for peace.
Group secretary Nina Trad Azam added the dinner was successful in uniting the Illawarra's diverse Muslim community with the many other faiths in the region.
"It [dinner] was the best vehicle to bring people together and say we're all the same, we all eat and we have more similarities then there are differences.
"That was the essential message of the evening," she said.
Mrs Azam said reinforcing that people should never have to conceal their faith was one of the really good messages.
"It may seem that that time has come, but regardless of what your faith is, you shouldn't ever have to be put in a position where you must defend it ... regardless of whether you are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic or atheist."
Reverend Geoff Flynn of the Wesley Uniting Church on the Mall is the new chair of Illawarra People For Peace, which is made up of representatives of Wollongong's Omar and Bilal mosques, the Catholic Church, Uniting and Congregational churches, Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Amity College Shellharbour as well as other traditions.
Illawarra People For Peace formed last October after Illawarra religious leaders organised a community barbecue to foster peace and understanding in the face of ugly behaviour towards Muslims.
Mrs Azam said the group's biggest victory since then was preventing the Reclaim rally happening in Wollongong.
"This year we are looking at similar non-violent lobbying and protests which can allow us to showcase Illawarra as being a peace precinct and a safe haven for people.
"We don't want to see the violent, disrespectful stuff you here happening in Melbourne and Brisbane when Reclaim had their protests and counter protests. We don't want that to come to Wollongong.
"If it was to spill here we will do our best to network with all the different faiths to keep Wollongong safe and welcoming for everyone."
Information: Illawarra People for Peace on Facebook