At interfaith iftar event, US &UN officials, religious leaders urge communities to tackle anti-Semitism and hatred together
21 May 2020 (New York) – United States and United Nations officials were among the prominent leaders who participated in today’s National Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Iftar (Ramadan break-fast) event, issuing a strong call for communities to join together to defeat anti-Semitism and hatred as the world grapples with COVID-19.
Organized by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and American Muslims & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council, the event titled “A Common Destiny for Humanity” also featured imams, rabbis, priests and other religious leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Christian communities. Together, they examined the need for greater tolerance, respect and cooperation especially during the Coronavirus crisis.
Human rights icon Natan Sharansky, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom said, “The war against Coronavirus sends an important message, that there are wars which we can only win together, by being united. Some voices of hatred have spoken about Jews and Israel being behind coronavirus. But these are the days in which people are working together and are saving each other. I believe that a very optimistic message is emerging.”
Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement Director commented, “Today’s event is a real interfaith celebration, which shows that it is possible to come together and build a better world for our children. We are opening the doors to learn from one another. The Coronavirus crisis has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes. Now more than ever, there is a great need for tolerance and respect between individuals and communities.”
Anila Ali, President of American Muslims & Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council said, “Corona keeps us physically apart, but in a way brings us closer together. We must work hard to overcome hate and build a better future for all of us. Bigotry is a strong force. Let us resolve today to stand together. Together we shall overcome.”
The US Deputy Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism, Ellie Cohanim, described her Jewish family’s lengthy history in Iran, prior to the Islamic Revolution, commenting that “Persian Jews had lived among their neighbours in harmony for millenia. Sadly, the twentieth century saw the dispersal of around one million Jews from the region.” She took aim at “Ayatollah Khomenei who just this week mentioned the idea of a ‘final solution’.” However, she noted that “We are seeing certain realignments in the region,” outlining several examples of improving relations between Israel and some Arab states. “On Tuesday, we witnessed the first direct flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel to deliver aid for Palestinians and the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations said publicly that her government would be willing to work with Israel on a coronavirus vaccine.” She concluded, “When I look into the future, I am very hopeful that we can build bridges again between Arabs and their former nieghbors and that those who want a lasting true peace will see that day happen.”
US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Amb. Sam Brownback said, “Coronavirus has essentially put us in our homes and made us reflect and think about what happens when people work together to solve a problem. We have to figure out ways to work together in respect and mutual care. It is our moment to step up and show the world that faith is a tool of peace and not a tool of war.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed commented, “These difficult times make it even more important to cherish the religious values which are united under the golden rule – Do to others as we would have done to us. Today, the entrepreneurs of hatred have incited harm and violence. Anti-Semitism is a global menace and a threat to everyone. We must encourage the love of shared humanity.”
Judea Pearl, the father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl called the event “A great tribute to my son Daniel Pearl, who was murdered eighteen years ago. He was a bridge-builder. His murder tried to sow divisions among us, but it sowed the opposite. His last words became an iconic reminder that the wave of terror, violence and hatred is aimed not at a tribe or country, but the very fabric of society.”
Former Pakistani diplomat, author, poet and academic Dr. Akbar Ahmed, who has worked closely alongside Judea Pearl commented, “I look now at the virus in a collective sense. We must very quickly help the world to understand how connected we are. Love and compassion are absolutely vital. That is what drives us irrespective of our cultures and our religions.”
A video message was sent by US Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, who said “During these challenging times, breaking bread together can break down barriers and replace them with mutual respect and tolerance. Standing together with a sense of unity can help us confront even the toughest of problems.”
In another video message, Senator Jacky Rosen commented, “With hate crimes on the rise in America, it is more important than ever that Jews and Muslims stand together to turn back the tide of bigotry. This event embodies those values, bringing people together.”