At National Interfaith Iftar, Ambassadors, Members of Congress, and Religious Leaders Urge Communities to Build Bridges, Tackle Hatred
21 April 2021 (New York) – Ambassadors from across the world and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were among the prominent participants in today’s National Interfaith Iftar (Ramadan break-fast) event, issuing a strong call for communities to build bridges of friendship, join together and defeat anti-Semitism and hatred.
In its second year, the event organized by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and American Muslim & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council (AMWEC), also featured imams, rabbis, priests, and other religious leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Christian communities.
Former Albanian government minister and CAM Advisory Board member Valentina Leskaj said, “This event brings together people of all faiths and nationalities. Such events bring us closer to God and to one another.” She added, “Unfortunately, today we see more hate around the world. We must look at the roots of the problem – Ignorance and a lack of education. We need to invest more in education, towards tolerance and respect. This is for the future of our children and for everybody, whether they are Muslim, Jewish or Christian.”
Co-Founder and President of AMWEC Anila Ali said, “Last year a dark cloud hovered above us. We were cut off from our communities. From this adversity came an opportunity for all of us… the pandemic compelled us to reflect on our lives, to be a lot more compassionate. Coming together as one is necessary.” She added, “Ramadan is a reminder that the differences between us are actually quite small. The things that we can accomplish together are great.”
Ambassador of the European Union to the United States Stavros Lambrianidis said, “We are coming together in the holy month of Ramadan, sharing our aspirations and supporting one another.” Emphasizing the importance of gender equality, he said “Empowered women build empowered societies, closing up the black holes where extremists spread fear, hatred and division.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed noted, “The Holocaust did not begin with the gas chambers, it began with hate speech and prejudice,” and added, “Interfaith engagement helps to learn about each other and build friendship. Such activities are so important in a world of rising intolerance.”
The event also featured musical performances and a poetry recital, centered on the theme of interfaith relations. Religious leaders participating included Archbishop Elpidophoros (His Eminence, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America), Imam Seyed Mahdi al-Qazwini (Founder and Director of the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County), and Rabbi Marcia Tilchin (Founder and President of the Jewish Collaborative Orange County) Together, they celebrated their diverse faith traditions and pledged to improve interfaith cooperation and work together in the struggle against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of intolerance.
US Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) emphasized the importance for everyone “to fight back against all forms of bigotry and to create awareness and acceptance that provides Americans of all faiths the freedom and safety to celebrate their heritage and culture openly.”
US Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said, “This iftar serves as a fantastic reminder of the similarities we hold dear. This iftar comes at an important time – as we recover from this past year and look forward to life returning to normal. But there is a lot more work to do. Ethnic hatred and xenophobia are on the rise.” He added, “We must show how hatred can be defeated through interfaith cooperation and bridging cultural divides,” noting that the recent Abraham Accords between Israel and a number of Muslim countries were “an inspiring example of this.”
Watch a full video of Wednesday’s event below:
The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms. Since its launch in February 2019, 310 organizations and 310,000 individuals have joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement by signing the campaign’s pledge. The CAM Pledge draws upon the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.