Provided by Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary Virginia
Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary Virginia hosted the First Regional Interfaith Peace Symposium on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Masroor Mosque in Manassas. The theme of the symposium was ‘The Pathway to Peace: Women’s Role as Peacemakers.’ Representatives from Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam discussed teachings of their faiths regarding women’s role in the peace process and how those teachings can be put into practice today. The event was attended by 53 guests and 75 members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary.
Ms. Roberta Oster, the communications director at Virginia Interfaith Center, was the event’s moderator. The program started with the recitation from the Holy Qur’an.
The first speaker of the afternoon was Ananda Vrindavan Dasi, the community president of the Krishna Community of the DC Metro Area (ISKCON). Ms. Dasi emphasized that according to her faith, women as mothers, nurturers and caretakers of the family can play a very important role as peacemakers in society.
Dr. Susan Kohn represented Judaism; she is a pediatrician. Dr. Kohn talked about the power of resilience and forgiveness that is found abundantly in women, which can lead to creating peace in the society. She discussed how the previous generations of women in her community who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust were able to make peace with the horrible injustices and cruelties of the past and move on because of their will and desire to establish peace. Dr. Kohn also talked about the interfaith group called Salam-Shalom, which enables Muslim and Jewish women to come together and form bonds of sisterhood and work towards more harmonious alliances between the two faiths. Dr. Kohn established the Virginia chapter of Salam-Shalom.
Jo-Ann Duggan is the director of outreach at St. John Neumann Catholic Community in Reston. Ms. Duggan emphasized the Christian teaching of “Love Thy Neighbor” in her remarks, pointing out that this principle is the driving force that leads to peacemaking actions that she and her community undertakes. She said that the peacemaking process can be broken down into small practical actions an individual can take that can lead to bigger peace in society. She presented her example by reminiscing about the time when she got a homeless single mother and her daughter a hotel room so they would have a roof over their heads while they sorted out their affairs.
Talat Mangla shared her point of view on the theme. She represented the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary. Talat stressed Islam’s teachings of equality between men and women, and the elevated spiritual and secular status that women enjoy in Islam. She said that since women have equal standing as men when it comes to spiritual matters have the ability to promote and establish peace in the society. She also stressed Islam’s emphasis on establishment of absolute justice, without which achieving peace is impossible.
Presentations were followed by a passionate and lively Q&A discussion.
Virginia State Delegate Hala Ayala and Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson also presented remarks at the event.
Ruth Anderson said, “I am so thankful that I was invited to this peace event here today. There were women here of many different faiths and from many different areas here around Prince William County and we learned so much about what women are doing to try to make peace happen, to be peacemakers in this area and beyond around the world. So, all of us have a mission now to be peacemakers out wherever we are.”
Dr. Susan Kohn said, “This was a lovely conference and we really appreciated it. We hope that there are many more of these kind of get-togethers where women of many different faiths can come together and talk about the value of peace and how important it is to the world.”
Jo-Ann Duggan said, “I thought this was a wonderful experience; I would love to come back and participate. It makes me want to do more interfaith events because I just felt the warmth and the spirit of our faiths even though we are of different faiths we are all one really and I could feel that today.”
Prince William County resident Fatima said, “This is a very empowering event because it did not focus on those negativities. It focused more on how to empower ourselves and women to have voices and even going back to the home setting how you are peacemaker. I am very glad that I came.”
Delicious snacks were served at the end, which provided everyone an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with each other.