THE Ararat Islamic Welfare Association Inc will hold an Afghani dinner for the whole community on Saturday for Multicultural Day.
The Association holds the dinner annually but in the wake of the Christchurch attack, which targeted mosques and left 50 dead, the act of the community coming together over a shared meal holds even more significance, said Association vice-president Osman Kokcu.
"It makes this dinner even more important," he said.
"All communities are invited.
"If they need to ask any questions or anything concerns them, or if there is anything they want to know about our beliefs or religion, or anything about Islam, they can ask questions."
The dinner is free of charge and will be held from 5.30pm to 7.30pm at the Ararat Town Hall.
Contact Mr Kokcu on 0418 376 475 to RSVP, although bookings are nearly full.
The events in Christchurch left the Ararat Islamic community shaken, but Mr Kokcu said they were grateful for flowers, cards and kind words from non-Islamic community members.
"We had an opening day on Sunday and lots of people came," he said.
"They were very sad and some of them even cried. We felt we were not alone - we felt warm with the people as we received their support, and we thought 'these are people who care about us'."
The Association also wrote a letter of thanks to the community, which said:
'Ararat Islamic Welfare Association Inc. would like to say thank you to Ararat local community who visited us on our open day on 17 March 2019, especially from local churches, Catholic and Uniting, while we are grieving the horrific loss of 50 lives that occurred in New Zealand.
The community has bought flowers, paid their respects and has touched us with their compassion and generosity.
The Ararat local Muslims community is moved by the picture (above) someone adhered on our Centre outside wall with flowers on ground. AIWA cannot explain the solidarity shown by our local community to the marginal Muslim community in the Ararat town.'
Mr Kokcu described a difficult week for the Islamic community.
"Psychologically it's affected us," he said.
"Whenever we are praying, if there are sounds coming from outside we are always worried.
"We're a bit jumpy. We never thought this would happen. In other parts of the world there's lots of action but we never think in Australia or New Zealand this sort of thing (would happen).
"We were so relaxed. I don't even lock my door at home because I feel safe - that's why we came to live here."
Mr Kokcu said the tragedy has the potential to change the way the Islamic community operates.
"Anything can happen any time," he said.
"Probably we have to be careful from now on, I guess."
Despite everything that has been happening, Mr Kokcu is looking forward to the dinner.
"Hopefully it will give us positive energy," he said.
"It's going to be good for the community."
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