They came in numbers, and they kept coming. More than 450 people from around Portland poured into the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Portland Rizwan Mosque on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 to hear and support a message of peace and understanding.
Entitled “Standing Together: A Vigil of Interfaith Friendship,” the event began as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s effort to reach out to other faith groups in a show of solidarity and brotherhood. We didn’t expect at that time that it would grow into the largest gathering ever assembled at the mosque.
On behalf of the Islamic community here in Portland, let me say how truly touched we are with this overwhelming display of love and support. Words cannot express our gratitude. We saw first-hand the power of love, peace and understanding. We saw faith leaders from a dozen religious organizations come together in prayer and say with one voice that they stand by one another and respect one another as children of the same God. There were calls for reconciliation. There were calls to fight hatred with love. And there was the request to make such behavior part of our everyday lives.
This event was especially pertinent in today’s climate in which we see increased tensions with Islam and Muslims. Just earlier this month, the editor in chief of The New Republic wrote about Muslims in the magazine’s blog post: “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment.” There was also the story of a Muslim cab driver in New York having his neck slashed by a passenger who hurled anti-Muslim abuses at him as he attacked. And then, of course, there was the pastor in Gainesville, Fla., who called Islam evil in its entirety and planned to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy scripture.
All of these are examples of people who seek to create division and discord among people of different faiths, particularly Islam. In this climate, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community saw a need for people of all faiths to join together in a show of love and support to combat this hate and intolerance. On that day, we not only collectively commemorated the lives lost nine years ago but also sent a message to all those seeking to create wedges of misunderstanding and conflict between religious communities. The message: Your teaching of intolerance will not succeed. Your calls for hate will not break our bonds of love. We refuse to hate one another.
As the event coordinator, I extend my sincerest gratitude to all those organizations who partnered with us on this event and to all Oregonians who have given us hope that love and peace will one day overcome hatred and intolerance.
(Originally published in the Oregonian on September 16, 2010. Click here for original article.)
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