A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sabina invited me to a special event called “A Peace Symposium: Building Communities Across National, Cultural, and Religious Boundaries” at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association of Greater Detroit hosted the event and welcomed women from the community from all faith backgrounds to join in the discussion.
AHMADIYYA MUSLIM WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION’S PEACE SYMPOSIUM
A wonderful group of women community and spiritual leaders led the Peace Symposium and shared insight from their religion and on other cultural topics. The overall theme of the event was “Building Communities” between all faiths.
Special speakers for the symposium event were:
- Rabbi Aura Ahuvia, Judaism Perspective
- Councilwoman Stephanie Morita, Political Perspective
- State Representative Padma Kuppa, Hinduism Perspective
- Dr. S. Lily Mendoza, Academic Perspective
- Reverend Charlotte Sommers, Christian Perspective
- Kaisra Osman, Islamic Perspective
It was also my first time visiting a mosque and I had a great time! It was an honor to be invited to the event. I found “A Peace Symposium” to be awe-inspiring and insightful. I enjoyed learning more about Sabina’s culture and faith.
I have always believed that when someone invites you to their place of worship it is very similar to them inviting you to their home. For me, it is a sign of friendship because faith can be very personal.
It’s not always easy to invite family or friends to your place of worship. Visiting a friend’s religious community doesn’t necessarily mean you have to convert to a new denomination or religion. It is another way we can get to know our friends and loved ones more and see things from a different perspective.
FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM “A PEACE SYMPOSIUM”
Attending the Peace Symposium taught me five valuable lessons:
1. Respect everyone– including those who believe differently than you. All of the wonderful speakers taught me when creating peace within our communities, it is very important we respect everyone, even those who may believe differently than we do. I loved that each speaker had a different cultural and religious background because it showed me how peace is a universal goal for many people.
I think it’s safe to say the majority of people want peace in their community, home, and personal lives. But in order to establish peace, we must also learn how to respect everyone from all walks of life.
2. Get to know your friends, neighbors, and community more! If I take the time to truly get to know someone and see things from their point of view, then I will have a greater appreciation of the person. I may even make a new friend!
For instance, everyone at the event was very kind and welcoming, including the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. I was even invited back to visit the mosque and learn more about the Muslim faith!
3. We have the power to stop hate and implement positive change. Pastor Charlotte Sommers said, “It only takes one person to initiate change.” Wise words! We have the power to LOVE and RESPECT everyone. We can’t just limit ourselves to our inner circle.
How will we have peace if we aren’t taking the time to love everyone? And I don’t mean trying to convert people to our religious beliefs or our way of life. I mean, learning how to peacefully coexist with our friends and our neighbors.
4. Listening is another important way to establish peace. It is vital we take the time to be silent and listen to our friends and neighbors. Councilwoman Stephanie Morita shared one way she takes time to listen to her constituents. She practices mindful listening and gives community members a chance to share their concerns or complaints without any interruptions.
(I once read a book by Thich Nhat Hahn and he wrote about this very thing– practicing mindful listening and truly hearing what the other person is saying to you before responding.)
5. Stepping out of your comfort zone can connect with you with new friends and also strengthen your community. State Representative Padma Kuppa encouraged us to volunteer for a cause or connect with a community group that we may not normally connect with.
“A Peace Symposium” was a thoughtful discussion on peace and interfaith relations between all religions. I entered the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community eager to learn from my neighbors about their faith and culture. I was also eager to learn how I, too, can create peace.
I walked out of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community with a full heart of love and respect for people of different faiths. I’ve always respected people who believe differently than I do, but the interfaith discussion deeply blessed me and inspired me to continue to DO MORE.
This is how we need to be with our family, friends, neighbors, and community. When we take the time to truly get to know our friends and our neighbors, we will be greatly blessed. We must step outside of our comfort zone. Let the glass shatter and SEE the PERSON— not things we’ve seen in the media, on social media, or in the entertainment industry. I hope more communities in Southeast Michigan and globally will start to have more conversations like this!
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All photos are courtesy of Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit.