America’s Muslim Convention Emphasizes Service and Peacemaking
The nation’s oldest Muslim convention draws lawmakers, diplomats and activists in a call for peace
American Muslims joined diverse civic, political and thought leaders this weekend in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to inspire the spirit of service and peacemaking during Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA’s 73rd Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention). Over 8,000 people attended America’s oldest and longest running Muslim convention, and another 33,000 joined virtually, for discourses on how to solve modern day conflicts through peacemaking.
The Jalsa activities began this year on Thursday, July 13th, with the inauguration of “Jalsa Cares,” a program to give back to the city of Harrisburg with a series of service projects the day before the weekend-long convention. On that day, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA partnered with the city of Harrisburg, Downtown Daily Bread and the Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness to feed the hungry, donate blood to save lives, and conduct a neighborhood clean-up. Through the Jalsa weekend, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA delivered over 500 meals to Downtown Daily Bread. In addition, it also provided critical financial support to the Broad Street Market Alliance to assist with its efforts to support local businesses following the tragic fire affecting the historic building a few days earlier.
During a special guest session on Saturday, Mayor of Harrisburg, Wanda Williams, delivered a video message for Jalsa Salana attendees, reflecting on the long and close relationship her city has had with Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. “This oldest and longest running Muslim convention is a sign of what can happen when love and strength comes together and triumphs over everything in its path…While we have welcomed the Jalsa Salana back year after year, you have embraced us each time you return. It is no surprise that you truly live by your motto, ‘Love For All, Hatred For None’,” said Mayor Williams, who’s representative presented the Community with an official proclamation recognizing the Jalsa Salana.
Dr. Harrison Akins from the U.S. State Department’s office of International Religious Freedom spoke to the live audience on the importance of protecting religious freedom for all. He then presented a recorded video from Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who honored the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s commitment to religious freedom, saying, “I know and greatly respect how Ahmadi Muslims advocate for members of other oppressed communities with the same passion and dedication as you all advocate for your own brothers and sisters. And I commend you for truly living your message of peace and acceptance: Love for all, and hatred for none.”
State Representative Justin Fleming from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives welcomed the Jalsa attendees to his county. “I wish to congratulate your global spiritual leader, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, under whose guidance your community conducts work here in Pennsylvania. And we look forward to welcoming him again in Pennsylvania very very soon. I certainly commend the work of your Harrisburg chapter, which has provided exemplary social services in the community for many years and including this week. You truly live by your motto, ‘Love For All, Hatred For None.’ I express my gratitude for your recently launched Jalsa Cares community outreach project. This is a thoughtful and noble project. Among these works, you’re donating food, blood donations, and finding volunteers to combat homelessness and food insecurity throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And for that, we thank you.”
Knox Thames, visiting expert at the U.S. Institute for Peace, addressed the convention about the pandemic of religious persecution that continues to sweep the globe. “I love Ahmadiyya Muslims…I’ve seen your community work, helping others through blood drives or food drives. As someone from Evangelical background, I respect the zeal that you have for your faith, and as an international human rights lawyer, I know how leaders in your community have stood up for religious freedom, dating back even to the founding of the U.N. when Zafrullah Khan – the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and an Ahmadi – defended the religious freedom provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when the U.N. General Assembly was considering to vote for it in 1948.”
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA presented its annual Humanitarian Award to Nadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat and Global Fellow for the Wilson Center, for her tireless work in defense of persecuted religious communities all over the world, especially for the rights of Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims. She has led official human rights delegations on behalf of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan.
Accepting her Humanitarian Award at the Jalsa, Nadine Maenza said, “It is such an honor and a privilege to be a recipient of this Humanitarian Award. Thank you…In London, I was able to visit with His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad. I’m touched by your motto, ‘Love For All, Hatred For None.’ But I’m touched especially because it’s not just a slogan, it’s a way of life. I share this award with friends and colleagues who were partners in the Afghanistan evacuations and our continued work to rescue religious minorities at risk…I am distraught that there are still so many in danger, and I pray for them daily. We remain committed to providing help as needed. The horrific persecution that is happening to the Ahmadiyya Community in several communities including Algeria, Malaysia, and especially Pakistan is extremely disturbing…An important question: are you and other religious minorities included as equal citizens in society? If not, then still work needs to be done.”
The Jalsa also drew members of the diplomatic community, including the Ambassador of Guyana to the U.S., His Excellency Samuel Hinds, and the Charge D’affaires of the Embassy of Burkina Faso, Hermann Toe, both of whom lauded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s humanitarian contributions to their respective nations.
This year also marked the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the women’s auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who hosted and organized a women’s session Saturday morning featuring female speakers providing thought leadership to the thousands in attendance.