Events and Exhibitions

Peace Symposium 2023: Guest Impressions

Guest Impressions

@Makhzan e Tasaweer

The 17th Peace Symposium was attended by more than 1,500 people, including 500 dignitaries and guests who gathered from 40 countries, comprising Ministers, Ambassadors of State, and Members of Parliament.

Barbara Hofmann
(Ahmadiyya Peace Prize Winner for 2019)

What does it mean to you to receive this award from His Holiness, the Caliph (aba)?

When I say me, it means we, because it is me receiving the prize today, but it is us who are receiving it. I don’t do anything by myself, I don’t do anything alone, I cannot do anything alone. So all my people there helping and being a part of it – it’s us. And I think that for us it was a big honour to have met your Holiness (aba) and to have received those honours from his hands.

What was the one key point from His Holiness’ (aba) address that you take away?

That people have to be conscious and really to take peace as a life motto, not just as a word that everyone talks about, peace, peace, peace – no. But we have to put that in our heart, we have to live it, we have to accept our differences, in politics, in religion, socially, in colour, in shape and everything. Differences can be positive points if you know how to look at them and invest in them. So through what he said that is the message that I understood. And I think that is very, very important. I think everyone should think about that and think about themselves. First I need to [look] at myself, clean things up, and then we notice if we do that, that we do not need to criticise and [point] finger at others…And so big part of what I just said I understood from the message of His Holiness (aba).

Fleur Anderson
Member of Parliament for Southfields, Putney and Roehampton. 

You have attended this event a few times – how does it feel to be here once more?

Well it was very exciting coming, just arriving and seeing this beautiful building all lit up in the evening sky. What’s been achieved is something really incredible. But this building is unearthly and something of a bit of heaven. I think this building looks incredible. So I was here to congratulate everyone on achieving this but also here for the peace symposium. It’s so important that we talk about peace. We work for peace. It’s not easy and I think everyone here really understands that.

I recently went to Pakistan and I talked with many Ahmadiyya Muslims in Islamabad, in Rabwah and Lahore. And I really got to understand what it’s like to live not under peace, [but] under really a feeling of siege. So I think it’s so important that here we can talk about peace and how we want to bring that. And here His Holiness (aba) – I know that he goes all around the world talking about peace and until you lose peace I don’t think we really understand what it is, but I know the Ahmadiyya Muslims are suffering so much persecution. So for me as a parliamentarian, I think it’s really important to be here and to see so many mayors, so many people from across the community saying yes we really value the Ahmadiyya Community.
We know that you are peace builders and we want to be part of your journey to bring peace and to work on that together. I think that is something that this event tonight has shown. 

Is there something you can take away from His Holiness’(aba) speech?

Well it was very current. It was very much talking about what are the conflicts in the world right now and what are the risks of those. And one area that he talked about was that area of if we don’t get peace in Ukraine it will continue to go out to countries in the region and even, as said, around the world. So it’s really important that we work for peace in Ukraine and we support the Ukrainians because of that risk of the conflict escalating and I absolutely agree with what he said there and I know he’ll be working in the region and beyond it to bring peace. I think that was a really important thing to underline, because sometimes we can just focus on Ukraine or Yemen or particular conflicts on their own but they’re actually a part of what’s happening in a wider region that we have to look at as well otherwise we’ll get surprised if the war and conflict continue in other areas. So I’m really glad to hear him talk about that. 

Tadatoshi Akiba
(Ahmadiyya Peace Prize Winner of 2022, Former Mayor of Hiroshima & Former President of Mayors for Peace)

If you focus on just the war aspects, within the framework of war, you can never get to a solution. You have to go a dimension higher, or two dimensions higher…The whole thing will have to be put into one framework and that comes to the survival of the human race. From that point of view, we have to really approach the matter. We have to say to all the countries concerned that in order for us to survive, there is not time for us to be engaged in war or a war rhetoric. We have to pull our rule of power out of the picture and get into the rule of law. That’s exactly what this evening is all about, so I am very pleased to be here. 

For those who don’t know, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you won your award for tonight?

My name is Tadatoshi Akida, former Mayor of Hiroshima and also Former President of Mayors for Peace, a worldwide organisation and right now of more than 8,000 cities and mayors. Our mission as an organisation has been to eliminate the war and nuclear weapons from the point of view of cities and not nation states. Cities don’t have armed forces and cities have been the victims of war and that point of view must prevail worldwide. That’s why I am here, and in a sense, that’s what this peace symposium has been all about. 

How worried are you of the threat of escalation into a nuclear world war? 

Well anybody who continues to push in that direction will make it a reality. We’ll have to voice our peaceful minds and make sure that peace of mind will engulf the entire world. Not the voices of the warmongers. You know, that should be emphasised. 

What is your message to world leaders and politicians who are stoking in a conflict and have harsh rhetoric towards each other?

They should have started years ago, but diplomacy and friendship must come before any kind of war mentality. We, as a human race, the only way for us to survive is to be tolerant with each other. If they didn’t learn the lesson, now is the time to learn the lesson and also to take quick actions based on that principle. It is never too late, and if it is too late that’s the end of humanity, so we have to make further efforts. 

Sir Ed Davey
(Party Leader of the Liberal Democrats)

Well I love the Peace Symposiums that His Holiness (aba) holds here at the mosque. The basic message of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ and the fact that His Holiness (aba) always talks about peace and makes it a key issue of his message to the Community and the world, I think is so important. We need more people with the status of His Holiness (aba) to get that message, and we politicians should listen to him.

Do you feel that politicians or leaders are listening to people like him, and the kind of message he gives, such as the further need for dialogue and diplomacy to create peace? Do you think the world is listening?

Well, I wish it would listen harder because we live in a very unsafe world. Of course we have the war in Ukraine which is so tragic and awful, but of course His Holiness (aba) has often highlighted the war that has been going on for so many years in Yemen, and we know the war in Syria and elsewhere. So I am afraid the evidence is that they are not listening as much as they ought to, and that’s why His Holiness (aba) needs to be listened to. He keeps warning us about this, and politicians and governments need to take notice.

What is the key message that you take away from His Holiness’ (aba) speech today?

The theme that he was talking about was the foundation of true peace, and I think he was linking it to how we behave, and how we think and how we treat other people. He was also talking about actual events in the world today, and he’s essentially challenging us to do more. I was very fortunate as I was sitting next to His Holiness (aba) this evening and I had a long, long chat with him about many, many things. But he said after his speech to me, ‘Now the ball is in your court’. So I think what he meant was that politicians have got to work ever harder in whatever capacity that we have to make the argument for peace. As the leader of the Liberal Democrats I am determined to play my role. That might be, for example, my role on the All-Party Parliamentary Group to help Ahmadi Muslims, whether in Pakistan, in Bangladesh, in Indonesia, in Burkina Faso or in the many places where the Community faces oppression, discrimination and violence. To speak up for them, or whether it is the more general message of His Holiness (aba) to reach out to everyone.

Is there anything else you would like to share about what you discussed with His Holiness (aba)?

It was a real privilege to be able to speak at length with His Holiness (aba), but I think it is wise to keep that between the two of us and to respect him.

Do you think it is important to keep holding events like this and try to continue these peace efforts? What do you think the importance is of getting all these kind of people and faith leaders together? Do you think it has any impact?

I think it is hugely important in and of itself bringing people together. I think at this event I see more people from different political backgrounds and from different communities coming together than I do at any other event I go to. So the event in and of itself is important, and the message of course is even more important. The fact that this event is broadcasted around the world and has a huge audience, I think it helps to get that message out. And it is important to remind people of all political parties that people of faith, whether they Muslims, or whether they are Christians like myself, or Hindus or Sikhs, or Jews, or whatever background they are from, that the message of religion is that we need to have a peaceful world, people need to respect each other and work together.

Joan Henry
(Mayor of Merton)

My name is Joan Henry and I am the Mayor of Merton. I have been here many times, today is one out of the many. I am so pleased that the building [work] has finished. I remember when the fire [took place], I was one of the people who came and did some of the tidying up, and I am very happy for where it is at now. As you are coming up, you can see the beauty from a distance and that’s really good. I am so proud that this is in the borough of Merton and I am so happy to be here.

His Holiness (aba) delivered the keynote address. What is one thing you took away from it?

Togetherness. Peace. Hatred for none. 

With the current climate of the world, with the possible nuclear war, do you think events like this are important to take place?

They are very important, and we continue to speak about peace, love and togetherness. Because without that, we have nothing.

Marco Respinti

I come from Milan, Italy. I am a professional journalist and Director In-Charge of ‘Bitter Winter’ which is an online magazine in English on religious liberty and human rights. 

I think it was a wonderful occasion to really get into what the Ahmadiyya is, to try to understand it better, and to directly learn from you what your spiritual and religious tradition is. And I think that His Holiness (aba) just gave an amazing speech, which is very much into the Muslim faith, but also for non-Muslim people it is very relevant and very important, because he basically said that true believers and true people from God need to unite – without any compromise of their religious beliefs – and still getting together to work for harmony and peace. This I think is a message from God. 

Do you feel it is important to hold events such as this and do they actually help to establish peace in the world? 

Totally, I do believe it. People meet and they stay together. And when they meet and stay together they get to know each other better and they can go beyond differences – without denying their differences as they are very important – but they go beyond that and see true humanity in everyone. If I am not wrong, His Holiness (aba) said that true humanity is a gift from God and the sign of a godly person. So this is very important. I think events like this need to be held frequently and as much as possible, for they are not just words, they are facts. And with facts like this we can affect the world for the good and try to change it a little with the help of God. 

Tinu Fakoya

(Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust)

What do you think of the Caliph’s (aba) speech and his peaceful resolutions for world conflicts? Do you think people will listen and understand?

I think that anyone who hears him speak cannot but listen, because he is speaking from a point of view which is actually quite a global point of view and he is calling out things that he has spoken about before that have come to pass. He is giving examples of his wisdom, so if you have the opportunity to come and listen to him, you will take something away.

Why is it important to hold event like this today?

It is so important because the kind of diversity you have in a place like this, you don’t get that very often. So people might not get that opportunity to hear all these different voices. I think we had 40 different countries represented here today and countless faiths. I was sat at a table with those who are from a Sikh background, Muslim background, Christian background, and we all had something in common. You don’t get that very often unfortunately these days, so it is so, so important to bring people of all different walks of life under one roof to hear the same message and to believe in that same message of peace.