Though, it had been an unfortunate opening few moments, once the event finally started it proceeded smoothly and proved to be a memorable and blessed occasion, where the blessed words of Khalifatul Masih penetrated the hearts of many local people.
After a welcome address, brief guest remarks were given by local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Philadelphia, James Kenny.
Thereafter, Huzoor delivered the keynote address, entitled ‘A Beacon of Peace’, in which Huzoor sought to remove the fears and misconceptions held by many non-Muslims about Islam and about the purpose of Mosques.
Huzoor’s words throughout were extremely moving and a call towards unity amongst society.
“Irrespective of differences of race, religion or social background, we are united as human beings and so it is vital that we interact with other people, rather than isolating ourselves or only mingling with members of our own particular community. In all respects, dialogue is crucial to breaking down barriers and increasing mutual understanding and knowledge.”
Huzoor said the Holy Quran had taught Muslims to be sympathetic and tolerant to the people of all religions and beliefs and to stand with them in their times of need.
Citing a recent incident, Huzoor said:
“Last year when a local Jewish cemetery was attacked here in Philadelphia and their gravestones were desecrated, the local members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community immediately went to offer their support to the Jewish community and to stand in solidarity with them, after that despicable crime. We seek no reward or gratitude for such things, because we are merely following what our religion has taught us, which is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of other faiths and beliefs in their times of need or distress. We champion the right of all people to live their lives, free from discrimination or prejudice.”
Huzoor said freedom of belief was an inherent teaching of Islam and this was proven by the way the Holy Prophet (sa) had governed in Medina.
“Alongside the leaders of other religions and communities, the Prophet of Islam (sa) established a covenant (in Medina) that served as the basis for governance in that diverse city. It ensured that all members of society were able to live in peace, free from oppression, and were free to practice their religion or beliefs.”
“All people, no matter their faith, had a responsibility to uphold the peace of the state and to treat others with respect. The treaty fostered peace and ensured that a tolerant society prevailed. Thus, more than 1400 years ago, a multicultural melting-pot of a society was successfully managed and administered in Madinah.”
Huzoor went on to describe the true objectives of Mosques and made it clear that true Mosques were not hotbeds of extremism or terrorism, as commonly portrayed in non-Muslim countries.
“If our mosques serve to incite Ahmadi Muslims, it is not towards terrorism or extremism, it is only towards serving humanity and opening our hearts to our fellow beings. Our mosques increase our determination to spread peace and to cultivate bonds of brotherhood and mutual affection with people from all walks of life and to eliminate all forms of hatred, bigotry and division from society.”
As he continued, Huzoor’s vast expectations of the members of the Jamaat were clearly evident.
“Whenever any of you stand in need of help, we pledge to be there to aid and assist, in whatever way we can. In times of grief and despair, we will always be there to wipe away the tears of our neighbours and to support and comfort them.”
Perhaps, due to the fact that the Mosque was situated in a deprived area, it was this part of Huzoor’s speech that seemed to resonate and leave the deepest impact upon guests. Many later remarked about how they were touched by Huzoor’s pledge to ‘wipe away the tears’ of the local people and to support them whenever they faced difficulties.
Speaking about the Baitul Aafiyyat Mosque itself, Huzoor said:
“It will prove a beacon of light and hope to all peace-loving people, irrespective of their caste, creed or colour.”
Concluding his address by referencing Philadelphia’s history, Huzoor said:
“It is said that Philadelphia was the first colonial city, which permitted freedom of religion and freedom of worship in this country. Furthermore, it is the historic city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Hence, this city has a rich and proud history and it is my prayer that its people are able to build upon their distinguished past and that these great traditions remain a hallmark of your future. I pray that this city forever remains a beacon of freedom of belief and that the people of this city each play their role in advancing peace, not only in this city, but throughout the United States and indeed, across the world.”