The large turnout at a community prayer vigil at the Christ Church Cathedral.
The large turnout at a community prayer vigil at the Christ Church Cathedral. Adam Hourigan

Church and community working to build link with Muslims

THE moment has passed for the Muslim community to reach out to Grafton after the tragedy in Christchurch but there is still an appetite for a long-term project of reconciliation, a leading church figure says.

The Dean of Grafton Dr Greg Jenks said an initial attempt to organise a group of Muslims from Sydney to come to Grafton had not proved feasible.

"They Muslim community's heart went out to the family in Grafton and they wanted to reach out to them," he said.

Dr Jenks said cultural differences between the two cultures made it difficult.

"Basically they believe if a member of the family does something wrong, it brings shame on the whole family," he said.

"Whereas in our culture, if a family member goes off the rails, the family members tend to want to get on with things and don't feel as bad in the same way."

He said the closeness of two key festivals of the Muslim and Christian faiths, Ramadan and Easter, also made it hard to organise.

Dr Jenks said the church was working on a longer-term project, a community iftar - a traditional Muslim meal to break a fast - to be held in Grafton towards the end of Ramadan.

He said the event could be held early in June, just before the end of Ramadan on June 5.

"We're still negotiating with local Muslim people but if it happens it will be the first iftar in Grafton," Dr Jenks said.

"We'd like to have the local members and the mayor along to join with members of the local Muslim community."

Dr Jenks said when he worked in Jerusalem the arch bishops of the different Christian faiths regularly held iftars with the Muslim community.

"It was a way of the different cultures reaching out and as well the food was quite yummy," he said.

"It would be lovely if it could become a once-a-year thing, maybe at the end of the Ramadan festival when each community could wish the other well. It's something we think could become a permanent thing."