Houston Iftar 2015 with Mayor Annise D. Parker

20150628_Featured image_HoustonIftar2015The 5th Annual Houston Iftar Ramadan Dinner with Mayor Annise Parker showed, this year again, a beautiful portrait of Brotherhood where all races and religions shared and enjoyed peacefully under one roof.

On Sunday, June 28th 2015, Houston Iftar gathered together several communities with members of all faiths and denominations to break the daily fast during this prestigious dinner at the Bayou City Event Center.

Over 1,500 people attended this meaningful event organized by the Abu Dhabi, Baku, Basrah, Istanbul and Karachi Houston Sister Cities Associations and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston hosted by collaborating organizations such as His Highness the Aga Khan Council for the Southwestern United States, Raindrop Turkish House, Azerbaijan Center, Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA, the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, the Council on American Islamic Relations Texas Chapter, the Hashoo Foundation, and many others!

The Mayor of Houston and other Congressional, County, City, business, civic leaders and Members of Consular Corps of Houston also attended the multi-cultural event to show their support and solidarity.

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The event began with a recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Zara Khan followed by a speech on Human Values in Islam by Imam Imad Enchassi, President of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.

Mr. Muhammad Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator at the Houston Iftar Organizing Committee and President of the Houston-Baku Sister City Association greeted all the guests and expressed his gratitude to all Elected Officials, Dignitaries, sponsors, volunteers and attendees for honoring us with their presence.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee followed by Congressman Al Green gave their remarks on the importance of tolerance and respect between all humans. Both congressional representatives whose districts are located in Houston, also greeted the audience and presented proclamations to the organizers of the dinner for their hard work towards creating a more diverse and bonded society. All the volunteers at this event were a perfect representation of diversity and unity!

Both congressional representatives recognized all distinguished guests and representatives including several members of the Consular Corps and thank them for their presence and support.

Jihad Turk, President of Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, shared his knowledge on the significance of Ramadan before handing over to M.J. Khan, President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Through a video message, Governor of Texas Greg Abbott greeted the guests on the occasion.

The Mayor of Houston Annise Parker was introduced by the Guest of Honor and major sponsor of Houston Iftar for the past four years, President and CEO of Midland Energy & Petroplex Energy.

Keynote address was made by Mayor Parker who highlighted the importance of solidarity and diversity as foundations of the City of Houston while addressing the full banquet hall. The Mayor also made emphasis on the wonderful work that all Sister Cities are able to accomplish together.

Representative Sylvester Turner and Representative Gene Wu also joined the stage to greet the participants and present their best wishes of health and prosperity for this Holy month of Ramadan.

For the breaking of fast, the invocation was quoted by Imam Tauqer Shah from the Maryam Islamic Center.

The program was followed by a dinner for all to share.

All communities were proud to be a part of this symbolic event and look forward to the next ones to come.

On behalf of the Houston Iftar Organizing Committee, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all volunteers, participating organizations and generous sponsors for their strong support! You are the reason why this meaningful event exists!

About Ramadan…

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, is the month of fasting. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to fast every day from dawn to sunset. Fasting helps to teach patience, self-control and humility. In the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims give in extra acts of charity, spend extra time in worship, forgiveness for sins in the past, pray for direction and assistance in abstaining from everyday troubles, and endeavor to cleanse themselves through self-control and great acts of faith.

 

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The Maiden Tower through your eyes – Award Ceremony

We were blown away by the creative spirit displayed by our youth through their interpretations of the renowned Maiden Tower as part of the “The Maiden Tower through your eyes – Children’s Art Contest,” held in collaboration with the Azerbaijan American Cultural Alliance and the Azerbaijan Center.

Known as “the most majestic and mysterious monument of Baku,” 11 bold participants wowed the judges with their unique interpretations of the tower and were celebrated at the awards ceremony held June 20, 2015 at the Azerbaijan Center.

Mrs. Emmanuelle Hamilton, Director of Marketing and Communications of the Azerbaijan Center, opened the ceremony by welcoming the participants and their families before introducing Mrs. Irada Akhoundova, CEO of the Azerbaijan Center and President of the Houston-Baku Sister City Association.

Mrs. Akhoundova elaborated on the importance of culture and youth among the Azerbaijani community and pointed out how this contest allowed the children to express their own ideas and perceptions of their cultural identity. Mr. Ismayil Ehmedov, President of AACA, also talked about the distinct connection between the artwork and the Azerbaijani culture and expressed his pride and admiration for the variety of artwork that was created.

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A panel of three judges was selected from outside the Azerbaijan community and together they critiqued the entries based on: interpretation and clarity of the theme, creativity and originality of the depicted theme, quality of artistic composition and overall design and overall impression of the artwork.

The winners Zahra Ali (First Place), Zarifa Aliyeva (Second Place) and Ujal Ali (Third Place), were praised for making thought provoking connections between the Azerbaijani and American mythologies, effectively illustrating powerful historical elements in Azerbaijani culture and visually and thematically integrating the beloved Azerbaijani love story with the Maiden Tower. The winners were awarded gift cards from Barnes & Noble and each participant received a certificate of participation, a free ticket to the Houston Zoo and the exciting opportunity to present their artwork in front of the audience.

The Houston-Baku Sister City Association would like to especially thank the organizing committee, Mr. Ismayil Ehmedov, Mrs. Saida Fagala and the children’s art teacher Mrs. Parvina Aliyeva, responsible for the talent that was demonstrated by the participating children. Both Mrs. Aliyeva and Mrs. Fagala were present at the ceremony and expressed their respect for the children’s artistic skills and their dedication to the project. We would like to express our gratitude to the judges for dedicating some of their time to this project and for their enthusiasm.

We would also like to extend thanks to our partners on this project, the Azerbaijanian American Cultural Alliance, the Azerbaijan Center and to the Azerbaijan community here in Houston that makes events such as these a great success.

Stay tuned for the next art contest!

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Music From Around The World – Organ Concert

We were delighted to have all the guests participating and share our Music From Around The World concert featuring artists from Azerbaijan and Turkey to celebrate the long-lasting friendship between the two countries and to honor the 97th anniversary of Azerbaijan Republic Day.

This event was made possible thanks to the joint organization efforts of the Consulate General of Turkey, the Azerbaijan Center and the Houston-Baku Sister City Association.

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The event started with welcoming remarks from the organizers. In his remarks, Consul General of Turkey Ferhat Alkan mentioned that “Turkey-Azerbaijan relations are unique. We define this special relationship as ‘two states but one nation’. We are now pleased to witness that Turkey and Azerbaijan have been staunch allies of the United States and beacons of stability, democracy and prosperity in a volatile region of the world.”

Before handing over to Mrs. Irada Akhoundova, CEO of the Azerbaijan Center and President of the Houston-Baku Sister City Association, the Consul General Ferhat Alkan congratulated all Azerbaijanis on this day of May 28th 2015 for the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic 97 years ago and addressed his best wishes of well-being and prosperity to the brotherly country of Azerbaijan.

Mrs. Irada Akhoundova started by giving a brief history of the establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 and congratulated all Azerbaijanis on this national day.

In her remarks, Mrs. Akhoundova also highlighted that Turkey became the first state to recognize the Republic of Azerbaijan when it declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, the two countries have kept on strengthening their ties and friendship and “Music From Around The World” concert is just another meaningful example.

The concert featured artists from Azerbaijan and Turkey, Oya Ergun (soprano), Jamila Javadova-Spitzberg (organ & piano) and Narmina Aliyeva (piano) who performed Eastern and Western musical pieces including Turkish songs and Azerbaijani songs by Sevda Ibrahimova, Tofig Guliyev, Vasif Adigezalzadeh.

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After the concert, the attendees had the opportunity of congratulating the artists and were invited to a light reception with Turkish and Azerbaijani food. The attendees also had the pleasure of tasting wines from Turkey and Azerbaijan generously provided by Mid-State Wine.

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This event would not have been possible without the strong support of our generous sponsors and partners Turkish Airlines, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, Mid-State Wine, A-Media USA,  and our host, Christ The King Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston, TX.

We would also like to give special thanks to all of our volunteers for their help in making this event a success. Our work would not be possible without the help of the community. Special thanks to our friend and community member Shahram Faghihloo for sharing with us the pictures of the event.

In the spirit of saving the best for last, we would like to give some heartfelt thanks to our artists Oya Ergun, Jamila Javadova-Spitzberg and Narmina Aliyeva for sharing their talents, their passion and for touching our hearts, minds and souls. Thank you!

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Pictures are courtesy of A-Media USA and Shahram Faghihloo

Press releases:
- http://azertag.az/ru/xeber/V_Xyustone_proshel_koncert_posvyashchennyi_Dnyu_Azerbaidzhanskoi_Respubliki-859597