it's been a weekend of back-to-back meetings and events, mostly pretty amazing. the balloon festival on saturday night was lovely with a spectacular fireworks display.
this afternoon i attended a holocaust memorial service, organised by the waikato jewish association & the christian friends of israel. i've attended a similar event once before, which i had found difficult in some ways. i was hesitant to attend this ceremony, because of fears that i would be in a position of not being able to respond to things i was hearing.
and this is where the power of working on interfaith issues becomes so important. i was able to voice my concerns to a friend from the jewish community, and on their part, the organisers took those concerns seriously and undertook to do their best to ensure their event would be an inclusive one, and safe for their guests.
they were successful in doing that - i came away from the event feeling enriched, and also being able to participate by giving my own thoughts. i'll put down what i shared below, but for me, the most important part of this experience was the fact that we were all able to be there and to share in a way that was respectful to everyone present. it's the sort of thing that peace-making is built from, in the sense that we can bring people with disparate views into the same space, and make them feel comfortable.
this is something we try to do locally with islam awareness week, where we are lucky to have representatives of many faiths come together to share views on the theme for the year. but for our event, we only manage to attract people who already subscribe to interfaith values, or people who are curious. it's hard to get people with entrenched views to take part. and it's equally hard to be in a place where i know people have entrenched views which won't be particularly sympathetic towards me.
so i think it was quite a feat by my friends to manage to create the kind of environment they did under the circumstances they were working in. i know it took a lot of work on their part, and all i can do is express my sincere appreciation of that work and how much it means to me. maybe in the greater scheme of things, it doesn't make a lot of difference. it's not going to change the world, and we didn't have dialogue about contemporary issues. but even so, it meant a lot to me. it was another small step on a path that leads to better things.
here is what i said (more or less):
first i'd like to thank the organisers for making this an inclusive event, and for allowing us to be part of this time of remembrance and mourning for you. i'd like to share a few verses of the qur'an:
Say: We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to the Prophets from their Lord; we make no difference between any of them and to Allah we have surrendered. (2:136)
Oh you who believe, stand out firmly for justice, bearers of witness for Allah's sake, even though it be against your own selves or your parents or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for Allah can best protect both. So do not follow your personal desire, lest you be not just. And if you distort justice or decline to do justice, then surely Allah is aware of what you do. (4:135)
O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just: that is nearer to piety and fear Allah. For Allah is well acquainted with all that you do. (4:8)
i'd like to say a prayer for all those who did not receive justice, who had to suffer injustice and oppression. i'm very sorry for your loss.