America’s Muslim Convention Draws Thousands to Dialogue About Peacemaking
The nation’s oldest Muslim convention draws lawmakers, diplomats in a call for action to prevent war and reject oppression
Diverse civic, political, and thought leaders gathered to discuss peacemaking and religious freedom during Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA’s 72nd Annual Convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Nearly 6,000 people attended America’s oldest and longest running Muslim convention, and another 20,000 streamed online, for discourses on how to solve modern day conflicts through peacemaking.
Mayor of Harrisburg, Wanda Williams, shared a message for Jalsa Salana attendees, welcoming them back to her city after a 3 year wait due to the pandemic.
“We have missed you. Words cannot begin to describe how special it is you are back with us this weekend. You will always have a home in the city of Harrisburg…The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always remained at the forefront of its treatment of humans. It does not matter who you are. All men and women – black, white, or brown – are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Lastly, I want to commend the leadership of His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the global spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as a world ambassador of world peace and religious harmony. Harrisburg has twice been graced with his presence, and His Holiness has a home in Harrisburg whenever he is able to return.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a video message played to all attendees in which he stated,
“Congratulations on holding your 72nd Jalsa Salana this weekend in Harrisburg…I commend the work of your Connecticut chapter in establishing a really thoughtful dialogue within the broader community, fostering interfaith collaboration and understanding, promoting education and forgiveness, and being at the forefront of countless community service initiatives to better understand the lives of the greater Hartford and Connecticut community around you, regardless of their faith. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been a vibrant, valued part of Connecticut…With all the hate we see in this world now, more than ever before, we should embrace common values…We must stop violence, driven by hate or extremism, and uphold our common ideals and values of freedom and tolerance.”
Razi Hashmi, South Asia Advisor for the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, stating,
“The United States has long been a global champion in promoting and defending freedom of religion or belief for all…The United States is committed to human rights and democracy – at home and abroad. It is our duty to not only honor these values but to also confront the challenges we both face.”
Mr. Hashmi shared a joint statement written in March by the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (a network of 36 countries fully committed to advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world) about the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It states, in part,
“We note with grave concern the hostility toward the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in a range of countries, and the threats to the human right to freedom of religion or belief for members of this community…We note, for example, that some state authorities prevent Ahmadi Muslims from self-identifying as they so choose, restricting their ability to worship, prosecuting them for practicing their faith, and tolerating attacks against them by non-state actors.”
The Honorable Siddique Abou Bakr Wai, Ambassador of Sierra Leone to the United States, addressed the Convention on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone to thank the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for its support and humanitarian help. He stated,
“The Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission was established in Sierra Leone in 1937, and its message of peace and tolerance resonates with the nature of our people in Sierra Leone. They’re reminded by this mission that we are all people of the same nature and of one ummah (community) that speaks of equality and the same purpose in the sight of Allah (God)…At the international level, let me take this opportunity to recognize the huge successes the Ahmadiyya Mission has done in my country for the past eight decades…Hundreds of primary schools and more than 60 secondary schools in Sierra Leone were built by the Ahmadiyya Muslim (Community). The mission has also built hospitals and clinics that provide needed medical services to people who need it.”
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA presented its annual Humanitarian Award to former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, for his tireless work in defense of persecuted religious communities all around the world, including on behalf of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria.
Accepting his Humanitarian Award via video, Mr. Brownback said
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet your spiritual leader one time while I was the Ambassador for religious freedom. What a most impressive individual – a man of deep peace and caring…It’s been a great honor for me to work for years with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. You’ve just got outstanding people, you’ve faced persecution in so many places around the world for nothing other than wanting to peacefully practice your faith…Thank you for this Humanitarian Award that you’ve bestowed upon me. It’s a great honor for me to have that. It’s been even a greater honor to work with people in your organization over the many years and the various positions that I’ve held…We need to protect religious freedom here for everybody, everywhere, all the time. People that want to peacefully practice their faith need to be able to do that. Indeed, it’s a part of the basic charter of being an American, and it’s also in the basic charter of being a human…I look forward to the days of us continuing to work together for the good of all our fellow human beings, of our fellow Americans, and of people around the world.”
Other special guest speakers featured Nadine Maenza (former Chair for U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), Stephanie Sun (Executive Director of Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian-Pacific American Affairs), Saikou Ceesay (Information and Cultural Affairs Officer representing the Embassy of The Gambia), and messages from Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Rep. James McGovern (D-MA).