«I believe it is possible to expand on this common basis to build a system that recognizes the diversity of expressions and perspectives, and that allows for more openness and systematic collaboration in the service of the people we all care for, guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.»

António Guterres Current Secretary-General of the United Nations

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By Liviu Olteanu, PhD, Secretary General of the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty

GAMAL FOUDA, the IMAM of Al Noor Mosque in the New Zealand city of CHRISTCHURCH, and the mosque-attack SURVIVOR FARID AHMED, shared (the former in Dubai at the World Tolerance Summit, and the latter in Abu Dhabi at the Forum for Promoting Peace) with the Secretary-General of the AIDLR, their personal ‘story’ of the dramatic tragedy that took the life of 51 Muslims, during the terrorist mosque mass shootings

Abu Dhabi (UAE), 9th December 2019

On March 15, 2019, two attacks occurred during Friday prayers, initially at the Al Noor mosque and later at the Linwood Islamic Centre, allegedly perpetrated by an Australian-born white supremacist. Imam GAMAL FOUDA, had begun giving a sermon at the Al Noor mosque when the gunman entered. Having witnessed and survived the attack, he believes “terrorism has neither religion nor ethnicity”. He said it had resulted in the balance being “restored” in people’s perceptions about terrorism. After 9/11, Muslims were stigmatized as terrorists, but after the Christchurch attack, everyone began to realize that a terrorist is in isolation from their religion. Even if a terrorist were to hide behind a religion, they must, still, only be described as a terrorist, he said. The imam from Christchurch also underlined: the “love and affection” displayed by the people and authorities of New Zealand has made the country's Muslims feel a greater sense of acceptance, despite the terrorist wanting to fuel division in society. This has been a great lesson that love overpowers revenge; through the response, a united message of “positivity, peace and security” was created, in spite of those wishing to inflict such attacks.

Another survivor of the mosque attack with whom the AIDLR Secretary-General talked, was FARID AHMED. Farid and his wife Husna were at the Al Noor Mosque when the gunman stormed in and opened fire. Husna hurried the women and children to safety and was shot dead as she ran back into the mosque to help her husband who uses a wheelchair. Farid managed to get out of the mosque, and also went back in to try find his wife and help others, but his wife was shot. Farid said: “How can that deep wound be healed? The March 15 tragedy made residents cry and many first responders risked their lives to protect their fellow humans. Can that dedication be forgotten so easily? For me and the other victims’ families, we have not forgotten our loved ones at all. We are still grieving, but we are carrying the grief to move on. We cry for love, but that crying makes us stronger every day. I hope we remember this day to learn from it, to lay the foundation of peace from it. It has laid the foundation of unity, and the building work is ongoing.” Farid, who received the ‘peace award’ honor at the Forum for Promoting Peace in Abu Dhabi, said he receive it as an acknowledgement for his “peace messages to the world through the message of love and forgiveness”.

One month after the Christchurch mosque attack, on 29 April 2019, the Second Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security, co-organized by the AIDLR and the UN Office of Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect, and held at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva convened. To pay tribute to all the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians that lost their lives recently in terrorist attacks, during the Opening Ceremony of the Global Summit, in the presence of hundreds of people gathered - the UN Director General of the UNOG, Ambassadors accredited in Geneva, worldwide religious leaders, academia representatives, international organizations and others actors, Dr. Liviu Olteanu, the Secretary-General of the AIDLR, started his speech and invited the participants gathered at the Summit “to stand up for one moment of silence on behalf of all those that lost their lives: the Jews in Pittsburg, United States, the Muslims in Christchurch, New Zeeland, and the Christians in Sri Lanka; I want to underline here: the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians, are my brothers and sisters in humanity”.