One of western Europe’s largest mosques hosted an inter-faith national peace symposium on the theme of “Religion, Freedom and Peace” on Saturday.
The event at London’s Baitul Futuh was attended by a thousand delegates including ministers of state, ambassadors, religious-leaders and intellectuals from around the world, while the keynote address was delivered by the global spiritual head and Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad.
The event also honoured Indian activist Mrs Sindhutai Sapkal, renowned as the ‘Mother of Orphans’, with the annual Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace and a cheque for £10,000 ($15,000) towards her charity, which has alleviated the suffering of more than 1400 Indian orphans by providing them with shelter, food and clothing.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Caliph of an Islamic spiritual movement with tens of millions of adherents worldwide, gave a wide ranging address in which he discussed the recent Charlie-Hebdo attacks, condemned all forms of terror, warned conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine could escalate into a third world war, praised statements by both President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and highlighted the Quran’s teachings on justice and peace.
The Caliph also praised a February 2015 UN-Security Council Resolution targeting the funding of terrorist groups and said that if properly implemented it could soon lead to the downfall of ISIS.
He said: “One point I made at the last Peace Symposium was that the world should urgently target and seek to block the funding and supply line of the terrorist group known as ISIS or I.S. I do not claim that it is because of me, or the fact that I drew attention to this matter, but certainly over the past few months there have been tangible efforts to tackle this crucial issue.”
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad categorically condemned all forms of extremism and deemed the Charlie Hebdo attacks “horrifying and completely against the teachings of Islam”, before praising comments made by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington regarding terrorism as well as comments made by Pope Francis after the Paris attacks in which he said that people should not provoke others by insulting their beliefs.
The Caliph condemned the increasing conflicts around the globe, which he said could break out into a third world war: “The world is being consumed by various issues that are leading to frustration and resentment, which in turn are undermining peace. . For example, the effects of the financial crisis continue to be felt in much of the world. In Europe, discontent is increasing and the integrity of the European Union is being challenged and undermined. Anti-immigrant or nationalist parties are gaining popularity in many countries. Then there is the conflict in Ukraine and the global arms race. These are all threats to world peace that are not linked to Islam, but rather have developed as a result of an unquenchable thirst for power, influence and resources.
“Whilst some are saying that another World War is now unavoidable, I believe that even now there is time for the world to wake up to the stark reality it faces and to arrest this threat. To do so, all people and their leaders will need to stop looking only in one direction and caring only for their own interests. Instead, they must seek to fulfil the requirements of justice, fairness and honesty at all levels of society.”
Reflecting on recent reports that terrorists had destroyed historical monuments and artefacts in ancient Iraqi cities, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad outlined how such attacks were a clear violation of Quranic teachings. He said: “For more than 1400 years these cities were preserved and protected by successive Muslim rulers and governments and yet now the extremists claim to have destroyed them in Islam’s name. This can only be branded as an extreme cruelty and a transgression of Islam’s teachings. No true Muslim could ever comprehend acting in this way.”
The Caliph also highlighted the peaceful role being played around the world by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is now established in over 200 countries and holds “Love for all, hatred for none” as one of its mottos.
He said: “We the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have no power or worldly influence. Our objectives are purely spiritual and so we do not seek power or government. We have no political ambitions or objectives.”
“As a religious community we desire only that the world comes to recognise its Creator and that people fulfil the rights of one another. To fulfil these twin objectives we make every possible effort in all parts of the world. We seek to inform others that Islam’s teachings have no link with the violence and disorder witnessed in the world.”
The event was also addressed by Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Justine Greening, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Lord Eric Avebury, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and Dr Charles Tannock, Member of the European Parliament.
Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief said: “The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always made a positive contribution towards promoting religious freedom. Thus in 1948, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, an Ahmadi Muslim and the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan, took to the podium at the United Nations General-Assembly to fully endorse the principle of religious freedom and the right to change one’s belief.”
Rt Hon Justine Greening, MP, Secretary of State for International Development said: “His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad is a tireless advocate for peace in a conflict-ridden world… The way the Ahmadi Muslims reach out to the wider community is exemplary and so I place great value on my relationship with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.”
Lord Eric Avebury, Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group, said: “It is a privilege to attend the Peace Symposium where we have all joined together under the wise leadership of His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad to speak against the forces of hatred and aggression.”
Dr Charles Tannock, MEP, ‘Chair of the EU Friends of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Parliamentary Group’ said: “It is extremely evident how prosperous, charitable and courageous the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is in the face of the adversity it faces in certain countries.”
Also in attendance were Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, members of the UK parliament including Siobhain McDonagh and Stephen Hammond, Cardinal Dr Jonathan Dunkerley of the Holy See of Antioch and Minister for Communities, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who read a message of support sent by Prime Minister, David Cameron praising the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s commitment to spreading a message of peace and tolerance.
Both before and after the proceedings, His Holiness met personally with various guests, diplomats from countries in the Middle East and members of the international media.
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad regularly delivers his Friday sermons from Baitul Futuh Mosque, to a live audience of 10,000 as well as a broadcast audience of millions worldwide. In recent years he has travelled the globe advocating humanitarian causes, peace and justice while addressing the US Congress at Capitol Hill, the European parliament, the UK parliament, the New Zealand parliament and during meeting with Presidents and heads of state in countries across Europe, Africa and North America.