By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
The Interfaith Council for Community Development (ICCD) has condemned the recent atrocities in Sri Lanka. At a meeting on the steps of Queens Borough Hall, faith leaders spoke out against violence and called for action to be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The meeting was chaired by journalist Arsalan Mohamed and President of the ICCD. Arsalan has been in the field for over forty years and has extensive knowledge about community relations.
Arsalan referred to previous meetings at Borough Hall by the Interfaith Council and said that they always seem to be for the purpose of condemning tragedies. In recent months, the Council met when there were tragedies in Pittsburg and New Zealand. It was hoped that this would be the last time that there was a meeting in such sadness.
A number of speakers took to the podium. Mohamed Rashid said that when such an event occurs ‘the mind ceases and the heart stops and we can’t find any words to describe it.’ He said, ‘I do not know that to say to my elders and my next generation but this should make us stronger. We should all pray for peace.’
Saleem Syed of the New York Muslim Center said that ‘we stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka. We condemn the attacks at Easter. Religious hatred and bigotry and murder have no place in our global community. People should practice their religion in peace.’ Imam Ahmad Hamid said that terrorism at all levels should be condemned. There are some people that think of violence but we should use all avenues to stamp out violence and bring those concerned to justice, he added.
Pastor Emmanuel Asse of the NAACP said that we should continue to work for peace, as we are all children of God. He pledged the support of the National Action Network in the peace process. He concluded that justice should be served. Arsalan pointed out that the Bosnian community underwent great sacrifice their homeland but did not retaliate.
Ishmael Serdonivich from the Bosnian Center said that terrorism has no religion and it’s a sad day when people kill in the name of religion. People should be punished for killing others. He continued, ‘I am coming from a country that suffered genocide; there were 300,000 Muslims that were killed and others prosecuted for no reason. I am proud to say that the Muslims in Bosnia did not demolish a single church because that is what our faith teaches us. We are Muslims and we have to live with everybody and New York is the best example for that. We are all brothers in humanity.’
Imam Shaykh Safraz Bacchus of the Masjid-al-Abidin said that the attack in Sri Lanka was violent and barbaric. ‘I was upset when I heard the news that over 300 persons lost their lives and I feel upset because I feel that my religion was hijacked. My faith teaches me to love and to disseminate peace and when a person takes a life it is like taking the life of the entire humankind. My faith teaches me that blessed are the peacemakers. I appeal to all to hold hands and oppose hate.’
Ali Rashid from the Pakistan Advocacy group condemned terrorism. This writer represented the Hindu community. He said that in Guyana there is no religious divide and that it’s sad to learn about the atrocities in other countries. In Hinduism, there is respect for life. He urged the faith leaders to return to their respective houses of worship and to reinforce the importance of peace, tolerance and mutual respect. He added that Sri Lanka is a diverse society as is New York and we feel their pain.
Attorney Andrea Ogle requested a moment of silence. She called for love, respect and compassion and said that Sri Lanka is in our thoughts and prayers. Pastor John Kung from the Family Federation for World Peace echoed this message. He said his organization belongs to the family of God and that we should not remain silent and that we must marshal spiritual powers to change the minds of evil. In this fight the theology of parent power is important. Peace starts with all of us.
Abdool Gafoor from the Ahmadiya movement condemned the incident in Sri Lanka and called for peace. Brother Somnath Ghimire from Nepal also extended his condolences and said that we are all brothers and sisters and terrorism should be outlawed.
Dr. Mohamed Hack represented Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. He said that bigotry and hate should be denounced. The Borough stands united with Sri Lanka and we stand as one and our safety should never be compromised. He thanked the police for the work that they do and urged people to be proactive and to take precaution.
Arsalan thanked all for attending and also the Borough and the police for their help. The meeting ended with a statement of solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.