CHARLOTTE – Ahmadiyya Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Baptist, Unitarian and Jewish leaders spoke at the fourth annual interfaith Path to Peace conference and banquet March 22 near Northlake Mall.

The point of the gathering, hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community-Charlotte Chapter, was to encourage faith-based organizations to focus on their commonalities instead of their differences.

The motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is “Love for All, Hatred for None,” and the group actively denounces terrorism.

“The greatest need now and in the future to bring about peace in the world is for faith-based organizations to really come together on our common humanity and our common goals,” Nadeem Faizi, president of the Charlotte chapter, said in his opening remarks. “Through dialogue we must overcome the numerous and various misunderstandings.”

The Charlotte Ahmadiyya Muslim Community meets on Hambright Road in Huntersville, but they have bought land off Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road in Charlotte, where they plan to eventually build a mosque.

This congregation of 30 or so adults promotes peace in the community through work with the men’s prison in Taylorsville, a food bank, an annual blood drive on 9-11 and a disaster relief charity called Humanity First.

 

A persecuted sect

On March 23, 1889, 125 years before this peace conference, the Ahmadiyya branch of Islam was born. It came out of the Sunni tradition but diverged by following the prophet Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the promised messiah awaited by Muslims.

Many Orthodox Muslims do not consider the Ahmadi to be Muslim, although Ahmadis believe in Islam’s five pillars and articles of faith, and Ahmadis have been persecuted in several Muslim nations.

In 1974, Pakistan officially declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslim and began prohibiting them from certain religious rights. In 2010 in Lahore, Pakistan, an assault on several Ahmadiyya mosques killed nearly 100 people.

 

Support from government

On Feb. 28, a new bipartisan Caucus was formed on Capitol Hill in to represent the 15,000 Ahmadis living in America. Reps. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, and Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, co-chair the caucus.

And at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, President Obama said, “No society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran, or Coptic Christians in Egypt.”

 

Breaking bread together

The 2014 Ahmadiyya peace conference ended in the breaking of bread together.

But first, there was a moment of silence, where attendees could pray in their own religious traditions.

It was a picture of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment.