Jamaat holds a successful interfaith event
President of Malta delivers speech and lauds efforts of the Ahmadiyya Community
Laiq Ahmed Atif
On Friday 31 May, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Malta hosted an Interfaith Ramadan Iftar Dinner and its 11th Annual Peace Symposium collectively on the theme Ramadan & Peace: The Concept of Fasting in Religions and invited distinguished guests and faith and community leaders to join in the celebration. The President of the republic of Malta, His Excellency Dr George Vella and his wife were the special guests.
The event brought together guests from different walks of life to join the important discussion about the purpose of fasting in religions, to celebrate the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Islam and break the fast with the community. All major faiths were represented at the event.
The aim of the interfaith gathering is to promote a deeper understanding of Islam and other faiths and to inspire a concerted effort towards lasting societal peace.
The programme began with the recitation of the Holy Quran. In his opening address, His Excellency Dr George Vella spoke about the need of interfaith harmony, dialogue and understanding, and he congratulated the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat for such a unique event that brought together people from diverse backgrounds, including religious leaders, and said:
“It is with great pleasure that I am meeting with members of the Muslim community to celebrate the breaking of the fast together. I wish to congratulate Imam Laiq Ahmed Atif and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat for taking such an openminded approach to celebrate the traditional Islamic Ramadan, and promoting unity by inviting us all here today to share with you the breaking of the fast, irrespective of our religious beliefs.”
He further said: “Ramadan is a period where one exerts self discipline. It is a time to impose self-control on oneself. It is an occasion to redirect the heart towards understanding others and sympathise with the needs of others. It is a time to be generous with those less fortunate than us. It is a time when one explores to find true satisfaction, a deep personal examination on our strengths and our weaknesses. It is a form in which one can experience spiritual awakening, and hopefully strengthen one’s conscience to do better in life.”
Highlighting the importance of peaceful coexistence, he said: “I call on everybody to cherish, celebrate and to promote the peaceful and amicable relationships between the different communities found on these beautiful Islands we call our home.”
His Excellency concluded by saying, “Allow me once more to appeal to all of us to reaffirm our strong belief and nourishment of dialogue, mutual understanding and inclusion. Let us reaffirm Salam (peace) as our ultimate and final objective. Assalamo Alaikum.”
In this event, Rev Dr Joseph Ellul, Chairman of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Malta, talked about a Christian perspective on fasting while Mr Gordhan Mohnani spoke about the concept of fasting in Hinduism. Rev Ioan Iftimia of the Rumanian Orthodox Church, Rev Sodo of Zen-Buddhism and Archimandrite Nathanael Felesakis of the Greek Orthodox also contributed briefly.
Imam Laiq Ahmed Atif, President Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta delivered the closing address, discussing the spiritual objectives and the philosophy of fasting in Islam. The session concluded with a recitation of prayers from the Holy Quran and sayings of the Holy Prophetsa.
After the breaking of fast and Maghrib prayer, a buffet dinner was served.
The feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive and it was successful in portraying the true image of Islam and promoting dialogue and understanding. Maghrib prayer, which was offered in congregation, was a unique experience for the non-Muslim guests, and for many it was their first experience in their lives to witness how Muslims prayed.
One Christian guest said: “It was a unique experience in my life. The melodious recitation touched my heart. I prayed with you and I prayed for you.”
One guest commented: “It was a great evening with a lovely group of people believing in similar visions; strangers becoming friends. May God bless your fantastic work!”
One religious leader said that he was very much moved by this wonderful experience. He said this practical example was the real essence which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had shown with love, care, warmth and friendship; it was truly amazing. “Many a time we don’t find words translated into actions, because, it is easier said than done, but you proved so with your practical example. I really admire your hospitality and willingness to embrace all people.”
One diplomat commented: “Thank you for your kind invitation to a heart opening event, and a great opportunity to realise that people who truly love God will always speak one language. Ramadan Mubarak.”
Talking about the organisation, one guest wrote: “Excellent organisation and very insightful panel of keynote speeches. This was a truly inspiring moment of interfaith exchange, allowing for fruitful dialogue and increasing understanding. I felt that I personally have learnt a lot. Congratulations on your outstanding work.”