‘Love for all. Hatred for none’ is the main slogan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This was amply demonstrated at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, South London, on Sunday, when they hosted a beautiful interfaith ceremony of prayers for peace in the Middle East, attended by politicians and faith leaders.
The event came as Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip intensified in response to the attack by Hamas on an Israeli kibbutz and music festival on 7 October, in which Israeli authorities report more than 1,400 people were killed, thousand were injured and over 200 were taken hostage. Israel’s revenge attacks on the crowded Gaza Strip have so far killed more than 10,000 people, mostly women and children, injured many thousands more (according the Red Cross and Hamas health ministry).
Several hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and refugee camps have been damaged or destroyed.
Guest speakers at the service included: Tom Brake former LibDem MP, Stephen Hammond MP, Rev Jonathan Sedgwick, Archdeacon of Southwark, Ibrahim Ihlat from the Ahmadiyya Arab Desk, Fleur Anderson Labour MP for Putney, Esmund Rosen Barnet Multifaith Forum and Rafiq Ahmet Hayat, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association.
In between the speakers, children from the mosque gave brief readings from sacred texts and sang beautifully – a poignant reminder of the over 4,000 children whose lives have been lost in the last month.
In a short address, Tom Brake former LibDem MP who is director of Unlock Democracy and patron of the Balfour Project, said he had family in Tel Aviv and so especially could understood both sides of the crisis, which he described as ‘senseless slaughter’. He called for an immediate ceasefire.
Stephen Hammond Conservative MP for Wimbledon, said none one could feel anything but compassion for the victims of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. He called for a humanitarian break to enable aid to be delivered but said in the long term politicians must work for a long term solution.
Rev Jonathan Sedgwick, Archdeacon of Southwark, spoke of the shared deposit of faith of Muslims, Christians and Jews. He called for solidarity between faiths, the need to confront anti-Semitism, the need to “weep with those who weep” and pray.
At this point the children sang and recited a prayer for peace, love, harmony, tolerance and respect. “love for all and hatred for none.” .. to “break down the barriers of colour caste and creed , rid the world of selfishness and greed.”
Ibrahim Ihlat followed with a prayer for peace. “Peace is the child of justice” he said. “Without a return to God there will be no peace. He also quoted from several Biblical texts including Levitus 19:18 – “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among you people but love your neighbour as yourself.”
Fleur Anderson MP expressed her concerns over the attack on Israel and the need to delivery aid to the people of Gaza. She also spoke of the need to counter AntiSemitism and Islamophobia.
After praising the community’s children Esmund Rosen, from Barnet Multifaith Forum went on to speak of the shared humanity of the Abrahamic faiths. He spoke of the Moslems during World War Two who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. He also praised freed Israeli hostage Yocheved Lifshitz aged 79, who, turned around and shook hands with her captor saying “shalom” as she was released. Her elderly husband in still in captivity.
Rafiq Hayat president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association gave a heartfelt address about the need for peace and the need for prayer. “What kind of world are we bringing our children into” he asked. He condemned the 7 October attack as ‘unIslamic’ and said that now both sides are breaking the rules of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. He warned of the risk of the conflict spiralling into a wider war . “We don’t want another war, another holocaust” he said, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Saying: “people are dying, there is no food, no water no medication. The inhumanity that is taking place on both sides..” He called for all hostages to be released and the bombing to stop. “All we have is prayer” he said. We mustn’t raise emotions. There’s a need for a voice of reason. Mr Hayat appealed for an immediate ceasefire, for hostages to be freed, for aid to be brought into Gaza, for all parties to comply within international law, and for leaders to agree a lasting peaceful solution.
The event ended with a short time of silent prayer.
There was brief social time afterwards with refreshments. One organiser said: “We hope this event sends out a powerful message that peace is the core of all faiths and that true believers are united in saving lives, regardless of creed.”