Faith leaders present solutions to war at 14th interfaith conference, Galway, Ireland

Yusuf Christopher Pender, Ireland

Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Ireland held its annual interfaith conference at the Maryam Mosque in Galway on 19 November 2022. The theme of the event was “How can the belief in God influence humanity and bring about universal peace?” 

This was the first major interfaith event held by the Jamaat since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to promote interfaith harmony and help build bridges. 

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The programme of events consisted of a “Mosque Open Day” followed by an interfaith conference in the evening. The Mosque Open Day included a mosque tour, a Quran exhibition and an audio-visual exhibition on The Review of Religions. Many Irish neighbours living around the mosque and friends of the community, some having travelled from far distances, came along despite the wet weather. 

Tour guides explained the purpose and importance of a mosque, both as a place of worship and as a beacon of peace within society. The visitors had an opportunity to observe the adhan being called. The guests also observed the Maghrib and Isha prayers being offered. Afterwards, refreshments were served to the visitors giving them a chance to engage with the community and ask further questions.

As guests began to arrive for the interfaith event, they were treated to group tours of the mosque before being escorted to the newly constructed Masroor Hall, where they were registered and shown to their seats. The attendance exceeded expectations and additional seating was provided in the mosque for the overflow, where guests could also see and hear the proceedings via a two-way audio-visual system. The guests included many Irish neighbours living around the mosque and friends of the community, as well as some who had travelled from as far away as Dublin despite the wet weather.

The proceedings began with a welcome from the host, Dr Mamoon Rashid Sahib. He welcomed the guests and thanked them for their attendance. 

The programme formally began with a recitation from the Holy Quran, followed by a translation into both English and the traditional Irish language. A presentation was then given on the founding, history and activities of the community worldwide and in Ireland and the efforts of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa in fostering global peace and tolerance as well as interfaith harmony. 

The first speaker of the evening was Deputy Mayor Councillor Mike Cubbard. He spoke of his long-standing friendship with the community and his continuing admiration for the ethos, hard work and sincerity of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Galway, who strive to live by their slogan “Love for all, hatred for none”. 

He was followed by Mr Adrian Cristea, the Chair of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum. He outlined the importance and need for interfaith dialogue and explained how such dialogue can create an atmosphere where communities and particularly minority communities, can live without fear of being marginalised.

Eamon O’Cui’v, a member of parliament and former government minister, was next to speak. He described Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa as a “shining light”. He said:

“You are a beacon as a community, from your leader down to the people. […] You practise what you preach wherever you are in the world. […] I always take great inspiration and heart by coming to your events and [feel] those deep words love for all, hatred for none.” 

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TD O’Cui’v, who played a prominent part in helping to bring about the Northern Ireland peace process, spoke of the current condition of the world and all the flash points that currently exist, in which “one false slip would lead to the greatest calamity ever faced by human beings on this planet”.He said such conflicts can never be ended by war but only by “the power of the people.”

The first faith speaker, Father Jacob Sunny SJ, Jesuit Educational Specialist, addressing the theme, highlighted one of the main causes of division and violence in the world as fear — fear of the other. He said:

“If we want to get rid of hatred and violence and remove war, then we must remove its psychological cause.” He said that “War is an outward expression of an inward state.” He said the world must recognise our blessings and common humanity.

The second faith speaker was Reverend Alistair Doyle, of the historic St Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway and a Church of Ireland chaplain at the University of Galway (NUIG). The reverend said the way to bring peace is to live in peace. He highlighted the Christian teaching of turning the other cheek and that Judgment belonged only to God and that we could only find peace with others who had hurt us if we forgave them. He said:

“God is king to the ungrateful and the wicked and so also we should be.” He said that we human beings were supposed to be the pinnacle of God’s creation and yet we disappointed Him and that “conflict will continue until we know God.” 

The third and keynote faith speaker was Ibrahim Noonan Sahib, missionary-in-charge in Ireland. He said:

“These are dark times which we are in and darker times may come, so how can we turn this around?” He highlighted what he referred to as four very important words that had been spoken by all the speakers thus far, which he identified as “God”, “influence”, “humanity”, and “peace”. He stated that since what is called the European enlightenment some three hundred years ago, humanity had started a journey away from believing in God and religion as a force for good or a force for progress. He stated that although all the speakers were men of faith, “what about those who may not have faith and who may be humanists, atheists, agnostics or pagans? How do we approach them? How do we penetrate their hearts to show them that perhaps since the enlightenment it has not brought what it had promised.” He spoke of the true reason for battles taking place in the early history of Islam and how the reasons and objectives of these battles were only self-defence and never for conquest or worldly gain.

He also highlighted some examples of the excellent character and virtues of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, from his home as a husband to his call as a prophet and his leadership as a statesman in Medina. 

He highlighted that in the Holy Quran Allah was called Rabb-ul-‘Aalamin meaning the “Lord of all worlds”. Therefore, He was not just the lord of Muslims but of all human beings. 

After the final address, Sadr Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Ireland, Dr Rizwan Ahmad Sahib presented a cheque of proceeds from the MKA charity collection, charity walk and cycle to the Irish Red Cross. The cheque of over 11,000 euros was presented to a senior representative from the charity.

Finally, Dr Anwar Malik Sahib, national president of Jamaat Ireland thanked the guests and speakers for their participation and attendance. The event concluded with a silent prayer. 

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