Monday, 18 June 2018 - 8:48am

Food, faith and friendship

2 min read

News article photos (1 items)

Iftar Ponsonby

Rob Stanton

Police marked Ramadan as both hosts and guests at traditional Iftar dinners, the communal meals which break the sunrise-to-sunset fast observed by Muslims during Islam’s holy month.

Police hosted a meal at Counties Manukau District headquarters – the first time such an event has been held on Police premises (click the link below to read more about it).

Meanwhile, in Auckland City District, Police staff were among guests at an Iftar dinner at Ponsonby Mosque. Auckland City Ethnic Liaison Officer Constable Rob Stanton (pictured) wrote the following account:

Police staff from throughout the district, representing a range of work groups, attended. Gathering before sunset we were shown into the mosque by community leaders.

There was a small delay as heavy boots had to be untied and placed in the racks, alongside rows of neat business shoes and occasional sneakers.

Before long we were seated on the floor with members of the congregation. Despite having not eaten since sunrise, they all sat patiently beside plates of dates and samosas waiting for the moment they could break their fast. At the appointed time they began to share the food, offering samosas to the Police guests.

This was just a light snack before prayers: the whole congregation moving as one, standing, kneeling and bowing in the direction of Mecca. This is one of the five daily prayers offered by Muslims; once this was complete many stayed behind to offer further prayers.

Now it was time to really eat. Back in the adjacent room, plates of curry, rice and salad were laid out on plastic cloths running the length of the floor.

There was more than enough for everyone. The atmosphere was a festive one, laughing, talking and passing food around.

Community members were keen to talk about their religion and the history of the mosque - New Zealand's oldest. Ponsonby Mosque was built in the 1970s, roughly 100 years after the first Muslims - Chinese gold prospectors - arrived in the country.

Now the community is made up of Muslims from every corner of the globe - and many more, of course, who were born here.

The mosque is tucked away in Vermont Street, a short walk from the busy bars and restaurants on Ponsonby Road. Most people would be unaware it was even there yet every day it is open and hundreds of people pass through the arched doorways to pray beneath the domed roof.

Unfortunately it all had to end and we filed out into the night, full of great food, a little knowledge and a better understanding of our local Muslim community.