Thunder Bay

'The biggest smiles': Thunder Bay Muslim community hosts annual 'Breaking Bread' public dinner

The sixth annual 'Breaking Bread' dinner happens Friday night in Thunder Bay. The yearly event brings together Muslim and non-Muslim people in the northwestern Ontario city for an evening of food and fellowship as part of the daily breaking of the fast during Ramadan.

Event celebrates the daily breaking of the fast during Ramadan; is an opportunity to share food, culture

Najam Syed (left), president of the Muslim Cultural Institute in Thunder Bay, Ont., celebrates the annual public Breaking Bread dinner with Zahid Javed and his son Yafi. Javed was a previous organizer of the event, whish is marking its sixth year on Friday May 17, 2019. (Najam Syed/Multicultural Institute)

Members of the Muslim community in Thunder Bay are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, during which people fast from sunrise to sunset, but once dusk has arrived people come together for food, fellowship and celebration.

That's the sentiment behind the sixth annual Breaking Bread dinner Friday at the Lakehead University cafeteria.

Najam Syed, president of the Multicultural Institute in Thunder Bay, talks about a gathering hosted by the Muslim community in the middle of the month-long celebration of Ramadan. 6:36

The public event is a chance for everyone in the northwestern Ontario city – Muslim and non-Muslim – to share a meal, some stories and hopefully build some new relationships, said Najam Syed, the president of the Muslim Cultural Institute and one of the organizers.

'A time to reflect on charity, sincerity, family'

One of his favourite parts of the evening is explaining why he fasts during Ramadan, and how he benefits from that.

"There's a perception that you're going without food and water from the beginning of the day until the end and how physical that must be and really what we wanted to share is that this is something we really, really enjoy," he said.

"It's a time for us to reflect upon charity and sincerity and family. That's why we wanted to open it up, to share that experience and that joy. It's when you'll see the biggest smiles."

Dinner shows 'strength of community' in Thunder Bay

The event began as a small grassroots initiative, with only about 10 people participating in the first Breaking Bread. 

But this year, he expects about 300, one-third of whom are not Muslim.

Syed said the event has always been 'positively received' and that is what "inspires" them to continue.

"What it shows us is that Thunder Bay is increasingly diverse, and an increasingly well-integrated community and people in Thunder Bay come together to celebrate each other's unique cultural fabric and it really shows the strength of community that we have here." 

The menu features food from many countries, such as dates, samosas, fattoush salad, eggplant moussaka, mandi chicken and mouth-watering desserts.

Cuisine from a variety of countries is featured at the annual Breaking Bread dinner in Thunder Bay, Ont., including samosas, fattoush salad and mandi chicken. (Najam Syed/Multicultural Institute)

The dinner begins at 8:30 p.m.

Registration is required.