Peace symposium aims for change

Rabbi Kalman Green shared his views on the Jewish concept of social justice.

Different religious leaders who spoke at the Baitul Awwal mosque’s peace symposium on Saturday March 10, all agree that one needs to “be the change you’d like to see in the world”.

At the first peace symposium this year, the speakers from various religions addressed the topic – national conflict: the need for justice.

Baitul Awwal Mosque is a member of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and the local chapter of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat (community), and hence is involved in interfaith dialogue and religious debate.

Pramilla Vassen, who represents the Hindu community, said human beings are riddled with inner conflict, but once inner peace and joy are found, it must be shared.

“How one deals with inner conflict is to use it as a setting for a battlefield, to face everything and confront things as they are. The universe always has opposing forces, and how we balance life is to choose the middle path – that middle path can be found in yoga and in service to humanity. Just like a doctor prescribes different medicine for different conditions, so too there are different doses of yoga to find inner peace. The key is that when you find joy, you have to share it,” Ms Vassen said.

During his talk, Rabbi Kalman Green explained that in the Jewish tradition, they like to share stories of holy people on a Saturday night. One such story involved a Rabbi who wanted to make positive changes among a big group of people.

In the story, the Rabbi realised that the message went over the heads of the people in the community, and then he decided to focus on his own congregation. However, nothing changed there. Then he focused on his family, but again, there were no change. It was only when he put the focus on positively changing himself, that he noticed the positive changes around him, including among his family and his congregation.

“The concept of justice is a difficult thing. Justice has to be pursued justly. The moment you impose it, it is no longer justice. Acts of love and kindness are greater than charity,” Rabbi Green said.

Tofeeq Hargey from the Baitul Awwal Mosque, said: “If we truly want peace in our time, we have to value justice, and pursue our own, as for others. South Africa is faced with a number of challenges, including poverty, unemployment, inequality, drug addiction, teenage sex, service delivery issues, bribery, illiteracy, racism, crime, sexism, water shortages, conservation and the green economy. I believe as a Muslim, the biggest way of dealing with it, is to subscribe to the Quran. The book is the wisdom, but we have to follow it. Moral degradation begins with prosperity. Islam condemns every act of terror, and puts humanity first. As our slogan reads – Love for all, hatred for none.”

Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams, as well as Ward 60 councillor, Mark Kleinschmidt, were among the guest speakers at the event.

During his closing remarks, Mr Kleinschmidt commended the Baitul Awwal Mosque for this initiative, saying he learns so much from it. He challenged the clergy and public servants to be the moral compass in society.

“In Ward 60, there are lots of drug abuse and domestic violence. In South Africa, 1.2 million women and children are raped annually. If we have to deal with the national dialogue, we as men, need to look at how we treat our women,” he added.

Mr Hargey said the aim of the peace symposia is to provide a platform for inter-denomination groups to engage with one another, to share views on topics of mutual interest, and promote peace and religious tolerance for each other.