Refugees and people seeking asylum were joined by other people from around western Sydney to celebrate the end of Ramadan, in a series of SSI events to mark the Islamic holy month.
Eid al-Fitr signals the end of a month of fasting for Muslim people all over the world, and at SSI, that celebration took the form of games, entertainment and food at the Friendship Garden – an inclusive community garden that SSI runs in partnership with Cumberland Council.
Families seeking asylum in Australia celebrated with Auburn locals, and SSI staff and volunteers, along with a group of tourists from Nepal who have been regular visitors at the Friendship Garden for the past few weeks while on a holiday in Australia.
SSI Community Engagement and Capacity Manager Trina Soulos said this eclectic mix of celebrators was indicative of the social connections and community spirit that can flourish through the shared experience of gardening.
“Eid is an important religious celebration for millions of Muslims all over the world," Ms Soulos said. "It’s a day to spend with family and friends, but for refugees and people seeking asylum, those social networks are often lost when they flee their homeland."
“Events like these are a good opportunity for people to start building new friendships and social connections, which will help them feel included and welcome in Australia.”
The Eid celebrations continued a week later at SSI’s Community Kitchen, with food, entertainment, and activities including sports face painting, henna, calligraphy and self-portraits.
These events rounded off a string of activities that SSI’s Community Engagement program held to mark the month of Ramadan, including two Community Kitchen Iftar dinners, where recently arrived refugees, people seeking asylum, and Sydneysiders enjoyed an evening meal to break the daily fast.
One Iftar dinner was sponsored by Community Hubs NSW, with meals donated by SSI’s NSW Community Hubs team, the Settlement Services Program team, and their family and friends. The other Iftar dinner was supported by the Australian Relief Organisation (ARO) – a not-for-profit that is involved in the development, relief, and advocacy activities for a better world.
ARO CEO Cihan Tumen said that while Ramadan was an Islamic holy occasion, the month of reformation and reflection promotes values that everyone could appreciate.
“These functions also promote peace, harmony, tolerance and understanding of the other cultures," he said. "I’m sure you will all agree with me that such values are much needed in today’s deeply complex world.
“As we abstain from eating and drinking for approximately 12 hours in Ramadan here in Australia, it is a tradition to break our fast in a fashion of joy and share our meal with our families, friends and neighbours. And on this occasion, we wanted to share our food with the SSI community.”