If you want to change the world, start with yourself. This message was echoed by many of the speakers at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at South Africa’s peace symposium.
The event, which was held at the Baitul Awwal mosque in Rondebosch East, on Saturday, commemorated World Interfaith Harmony Week, which is a UN observance held annually from February 1 to February 7.
Speakers from various faiths spoke on the theme of Acts of Peace.
Among the speakers was Soraya Salie, a peace ambassador for the International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) and founder of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies.
Ms Salie said peace started when you nurtured self-love and self-respect.
“There are wars across the world, but there is also a war within us. There are many evil acts we face in South Africa, especially as women, with gender-based violence, among others. We have a completely different kind of genocide on our doorstep. But how do we plant the seeds of peace? It starts with self-love and self-respect. That needs to be nurtured so that we can spread that peace and love to our families, in our streets, in our neighbourhoods, and eventually across the nation. Be the change you want to see. It starts with me,” Ms Salie said.
Anne-Lise Bure, from the Novalis Ubuntu Institute in Wynberg, said South Africa had many “structural issues that are not easy to resolve”.
“We are all so unique and complex in so many beautiful ways, and here we are gathered in harmony and peace in this holy place. Why do we all have to be desperate before we decide to make a change?” she asked.
Like the other speakers, Howard Goodman, from the Gate House Spiritual Centre, agreed that peace began within oneself.
“The Creator sent us here to be an ambassador. We are designed to be at one with self and our Creator, but we need to be active participants,” he said.
James Ellman, from FaithHopeLoveCommunities (FHLC) agreed, saying: “We come to these events and we say nice things, but are we actively doing something in our communities? If you can’t do something physical, then pray. Our acts of peace have to be constant, and not just when we feel good – the same process our freedom fighters had to go through. We have to be willing to come out of our comfort zone so that evil does not thrive. We are all differently-gifted, and we can use our talents to make a difference – but it must start with me.”
Rayaan Allom, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, said the symposium formed part of their Voices for Peace project.
“People focus on our differences, and that’s where the problems start. We need to focus on our similarities. You must acknowledge your Creator and ask him for guidance. Us being here is an act of worship. We need to create a connection between our Creator and the people. We need to help one another – being secluded is not a life of virtue. There is always something positive in anything and it is up to us to find it.”
Other speakers included Murabbi Mansoor Ahmad Zahid Sahīb, the national president of Jama’at Ahmadiyya South Africa; Rommel Roberts, from the Quaker Community, Gabriel Manyangadze, from the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute; and Julia Hope, from SA Jews for a Free Palestine.
In closing the event, Reverend Berry Behr, from Gate House Spiritual Centre, said: “May we breathe in peace, may whatever we do – wherever our footsteps take us – make a difference, and may it be soon. Is there anything such as a just war? War starts within the minds of men and that’s where peace starts, too.”