NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — Faith leaders from across Western New York gathered Saturday night to bridge the preexisting divisions created between them.
Members of the Masjid Mahdi in Niagara Falls hosted members of the Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Islamic and Sikh religions to discuss “Justice Through Compassion.” A leader from each organization spoke about this phrase from their faith’s perspective.
Dr. Nasir Khan was the host of the event and said events like this are critical to bridge the differences between religions.
“We all want peace, but peace cannot be achieved without justice,” Dr. Khan told News 4. “We are here to talk primarily about justice, but justice throughout compassion.”
Imam Adnan Ahmed spoke at the event, providing his point of view based on Islamic teachings in the Quran. He said it is important to host these types of discussions and forums, where people can realize they have more similarities than differences.
“All of the religions come from God,” Imam Ahmed said. “That is why the main teachings are essentially the same. We wanted to show that to people as well. That we can break bread together and be nice and kind to one another.”
As tensions between religions grow around the world, Dr. Khan said he believes these types of events serve as a learning opportunity for all participants.
“This is what America is about. We need to be embracing each other and learning from each other,” he added.
Even some of the youngest guests wanted to understand more about each other, as they joined together as one. They said it was even more special, because they were unable to do so for two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I like how everyone from different religions can come here,” Fahad Mandla of Niagara Falls said.
“It’s much better. It’s like back to normal,” Tamseel Tanweer added.
The gathering occurred during Ramadan, which is a time of fasting, prayer and reflection in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The gathering also took place a week before the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the liberation of Israelites from Egypt, and the Christian holiday of Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The leaders at the meeting said this discussion makes them hopeful for the future to build a better tomorrow.
“This creates hope for all of us. If members of different faiths can come together, why not different people from different walks of life,” Imam Ahmed concluded.
The Masjid Mahdi Mosque is looking forward to regular meetings like this where people from all walks of life can discuss their commonalities and differences. They plan to host a similar event in July.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.