4th Annual Women of Faith Dinner & Awards 12th March 2006
The Women of Faith Dinner, hosted by Affinity Intercultural Foundation showcased the good work in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. The dinner, held at the Boshporous Lounge on Sunday, 12 March, was a refreshing reminder of the efforts and initiatives of women in various roles promoting interfaith dialogue, providing leadership and fostering general goodwill.
This successful event demonstrated the capabilities, strengths, and importance of female leadership in the community. The evening included presentations by representatives of each faith, performances, and award presentations to honour and encourage progress in this area.
Master of Ceremonies Omnia Elmecery welcomed 250 guests followed by readings from the Quran, Torah and the Bible.
Kirrily McDermott, the first speaker for the evening, presented a thought provoking account of leadership. Kirrily stated that “to be a leader you don’t necessarily need credentials, but you do need concern. Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference to the world”.
She added that we need constant reminders that “just because we may not have an important role in public life, or carry a professional title which gives us formal recognition of a leadership role does not mean that we cannot consider ourselves as leaders. Our stories may not be remembered in history books, but if we live honestly and authentically, our lives will be remembered by individuals around us”.
Kirrily also touched on the importance of seeking God and honestly searching for truth. “As Women of faith we cannot fail to influence the people with whom we come into contact. By consciously living for God, obedient to the voice of our conscience, we become people who are open to God’s will in our life, and we can become witnesses to goodness, integrity, and authenticity in our world.
She also reflected on the life of Mary as an example of leadership and faith. “The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the early life of Mary. She did not have degrees or rabbinical diplomas, and was probably your average woman 2000 years ago. However, against all human expectation God chooses Mary, considered by all human standards to be powerless and weak and Mary became the instrument for humanity’s salvation”.
Kirrily used the words of Mother Theresa to emphasise that “we can not do great things, only small things with great love”.
Orna Lansky presented an interesting view of the changing roles of women in the Jewish faith. Orna explained that women are able to become Rabbi’s and is currently completing her studies in the area.
She emphasised the benefits of women in leadership and the positive impact that women can have in the community. She shared her own experiences and challenges and expressed the importance of providing women with the opportunities to get involved in various areas to make a difference.
Zuleyha Keskin presented an overview from an Islamic perspective and explained that there is a great need for women in leadership today. Zuleyha professed her faith in Islam to encourage women in leadership roles. “When we study the history of the Muslim world and take a look at the teachings of Islam, we certainly see an encouragement of Muslim female leadership”.
She recognised the need for leadership in all areas of life; personal, organisational or community leadership and the importance of time management, effective communication, commitment, perseverance, and dedication in the making of a good leader.
Leadership, Zuleyha explained, “is not a role that can be confined to half the world’s population. With the change in global environment, women play a key role in holding family and community together. This is another reason why women require leadership skills and empowerment by the community”.
“In addition, the contemporary material world is experiencing a lack of spirituality, with spiritual deserts evident in all parts of the world. We need women of faith to help fill the current spiritual void that the world is experiencing”.
Zuleyha also spoke on the common misconceptions that religion deters female leadership roles. “Since Islam and Muslim’s are under the spotlight so much and since there are so many misconceptions about Islam, the Muslim community has a huge task in clarifying these misconceptions”.
“The maximum utility of the empowerment provided by Islam is seldom seen in the contemporary world. Today, for a Muslim woman there are many barriers which prevent her from taking on leadership roles. Firstly there is an overall challenge worldwide to have women in leading roles or for women to be acknowledged for their contribution to society whether the community is a secular one or a religious one. Muslim women also need to deal with additional challenges such as the geo-political condition of many Muslim nation states, including war and underdevelopment.
“As a Muslim, the first place for me to find out the Islamic-point-of-view on a matter begins with a study of relevant verses from the Quran. For Muslims, the Quran the unaltered word of God as revealed to Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century”.
Zuleyha ended her presentation by highlighting the need to encourage and support women in leadership to create balance by following the examples of great historical women.
The Award receivers of the evening Elizabeth Ban, Silma Ihram and Doctor Giovanni Farquer were honored for their contributions and efforts in the community.
Dr Giovanni Farquer expressed her gratitude and said that “the dinner was so professionally organized, every aspect of the program sensitively and tastefully presented. It was no wonder that throughout the evening the whole group seemed actively involved in proceedings. I believe that the women of faith dinner are a symbol of the influence that women exert on one another and a powerful sign of the growing significance of their impact on the broader society. I encourage younger women to come, see, and experience for themselves the richness of interfaith encounter”.
Silma Ihram said she was “appreciative of the efforts taken to recognise women who are trying to make a difference in our society. While recognition is not required to continue our work, it helps others to see what you are doing and also to encourage them to also work to make a difference. It gives the opportunity for women to come together on a common platform when they would not normally interact”.
Elizabeth Ban was surprised but pleased to receive her award. “This was my first such event and I was truly impressed by the quality of the presentations and the positive energy generated in the group. Women are the teachers and the bearers of tradition in every community”.
This unique event achieved many things. It collected women of many faiths to celebrate the work in various communities. It encouraged women of all ages to exercise their intellect and initiatives to get involved for a better, bigger cause. It highlighted the respect, tolerance, and understanding of different faiths and most importantly it was a reminder of our individual and collective responsibilities to express good will through the teachings of our faith by using our physical, practical, and spiritual tools to create harmony with the help of God.