BY: SIMONE JENNIFER SMITH
“Unless we exercise justice, we will not have peace.”
The Toronto Caribbean Newspaper had the honor of being invited to The 15th National Peace Symposium hosted by The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This is not our first event with the Ahamadiyya community; last year, our very own Jelani Grant was invited to their community social at the Driftwood Community Recreation Centre. The event is coordinated each year to bring together all people in the Jane and Finch Community, including leaders of various religious groups, media groups and students of all cultures and ages. Our shared commitment to the community is why we were selected as one of the media outlets to cover this prestigious event. Their mission; love for all, hatred for none was clearly understood, the more I read about the Ahmaddiya’s, and upon arriving there I quickly experienced their message which transcends race, culture and class.
The Ahmadiyya Community
What many people do not realize about the Islam religion is that just like other religions, there are different sects. All sects of Islam honor the teachings of the Quran, but there are certain aspects of the religion that set each apart. The Ahmaddiya Muslim Jama is the only Islamic organization that believes the long-awaited messiah has already returned, in comparison to other Muslim sects that believe they are still waiting. The AMJ community believes that God has sent their messiah in the person Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian. He lived from 1835 -1908 and can be compared to Jesus, a messiah viewed by many Christians as the Son of God.
His coming was said to be foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and was sent to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and promote peace. This philosophy of morality, justice and peace have brought about a revolutionary era of Islamic revival. His Holiness (peace be upon him) has fostered community by uniting the family of religions under a single banner. All religious teachings have been respected, and the teachings of Abraham, Jesus, Moses, Krishna, Lao Tzu, Buddha, and Confucius amongst others are preserved and embraced.
One of their greatest philosophies is their philosophy regarding peace. The AMJ is the leading Islamic organization to categorically reject terrorism in any form. A century ago His Holiness Ahmed (peace be upon him) taught all of his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual Jihad of the pen to defend Islam. It was this degree that allowed him to pen over 80 books and tens of thousands of letters. He lived to deliver hundreds of lectures and engaged in numerous public debates. His main objective was to teach restraint in the face of bitter opposition. AMJ now spans over 210 countries with membership exceeding tens of millions. For more information about the Ahmaddiya Muslim Jama visit http://www.ahmadiyya.ca.
The Khalifa of Islam; A Man of Peace
The community has a system of spiritual leadership called the system of Khilafat. They currently follow His Holiness Haszrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed who is the community’s fifth Khalifa. He leads his global community and inspires them to serve humanity. It was clearly seen during the visit to London, where His Holiness is currently based. The teachings of kindness and humility are integral to Islam, and His Holiness honors and upholds all Prophets of God. In following the teachings from Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (peace be upon him), His Holiness has written, lectured and held symposiums bringing together people all over the world. His latest book, World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace, warns the world of the fast approaching dangers, and how we as a community, can avert disaster and work toward peace. It includes a selection of his keynote addresses and letters to world leaders, urging them to focus on working together in a global effort for the attainment of peace and justice. It is this focused effort that brought the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper to Gatswick, London; The 15th National Peace Symposium which highlighted the role of religion in the promotion of peace.
The 15th National Peace Symposium
In 2004, His Holiness launched the National Peace Symposium which this year was attended by thousands of people including ministers, parliamentarians, faith leaders, diplomats and other dignitaries. In 2009, he launched the annual Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace; this year the recipient of the award was Dr. Leonid Mikhailovic Roshal, who has been recognized as the “Russian of the Year” and “European of the Year,” His work has focused around helping children around the world who have suffered because of disasters and war. The international peace award was presented to Dr. Roshal’s representative, who spoke to his extraordinary commitment and service to the cause of peace and humanitarianism.
Along with the symposium, we were given an opportunity to sit down with members of their personal media teams as well as members of the interactive community. We were given a guided tour of the mosque complex as well as an opportunity to ask His Holiness questions. During his second press conference, I asked His Holiness, “What would you suggest is one way that we can pattern the interconnectedness that has been fostered in the Ahmaddiya community?” His response resonated with me, “Leadership! Leadership needs to be established within all communities. A community has to feel secure in the leadership that is being provided to them, and then they will follow.” I think that was the biggest take home for me; we as a community can work better together and we need to establish a leader. This leader must be someone we can trust that has the community’s best interest at heart and can show this leadership throughout the world.
This year’s theme was Fundamentals of Establishing Lasting Peace and the symposium is a key event of the community. It is held at the largest mosque in Western Europe. The event promotes a deeper understanding of Islam and other faiths and seeks to inspire a global effort for lasting peace. If you are interested in attending next year’s peace symposium, visit http://peacesymposium.org.uk/. Ignorance breeds hatred, and our hope is to promote the benefits of educating others on issues that may not have been thought of.
“Force can bend necks but cannot change hearts.”