written by Shirley Wheeler
Persian carpets festooned the walls and intricate brassware and Persian artefacts enriched the exotic atmosphere.
Long tables and seating were set up in the two church spaces.
Our Chapel and the adjacent Hope’s Café were transformed into a lively Persian restaurant for our fund raiser on the night of Saturday the 23rd of August.
The grand evening was booked to capacity with paying diners and refugee volunteers and other guests.
Attendees were treated to an authentic Persian feast of dishes rare and delicious, served on two large heavily laden tables.
There were koresh dishes which combined meat and fruit, kebabs cooked on an outdoor open charcoal grill by Iranian (modern Persian) asylum seekers.
The rice dishes were flavoured with pomegranates, saffron and other amazing ingredients. Vegetarians were not forgotten, with a succulent eggplant dish, salads, pickles, and this is just a small sample of the sumptuous buffet.
Fesenjoon, a Persian special-occasion dish, included meat marinades with walnuts in pomegranate juice. Some of the food was decorated with brightly coloured vegetables, such as carrots and corn kernels, such that it resembled a beautiful work of art.
A wide range of drinks was served in the Hope’s Café area, including a full barista service.
Desserts included some Australian favourites, such as cream puffs, cream sponge roll, waffles with ice-cream and coconut cookies.
However, the mounds of different varieties of halva made with sesame seed paste and the delicate nutty Turkish delight were Persian treats worth getting your elbows out for.
Everyone had the chance to eat their fill and enjoy the company and entertainment.
Music and singing were provided by the ‘We Women Sing’ choir and the JACI acoustic duo, which were uplifting and joyous.
A Persian song enhanced the atmosphere of the cultural ambience.
The refugees mingled freely and provided some attendees with their first chance to engage in conversation with someone who had survived a perilous journey to be in a free country.
Some refugees had escaped extreme danger and death in their home country as they had converted to Christianity, which was viewed as a crime that attracted torture and the death sentence.
The stories of injustice and hardship endured by the asylum seekers were eye opening for many.
Community detention has a prohibition against doing any paid work whatsoever and the provision of much less support than any other Australian resident.
Despite all their deprivations, the refugees demonstrated resilience and cheerfully served as volunteer helpers on this special occasion to raise much needed funds for their English classes and the Hope’s Café program.
At the end of the night, there was still some food left over for takeaways.
All expectations for the event had been met, and largely exceeded.
Thank you and well done to all involved!