Qur’anic memorial service

A Qur’anic memorial service for those who died in the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand March 15th 2019.

A dozen Quakers from four Central England Local Meetings joined mourners at the Bahu Trust mosque in Balsall Heath Birmingham on Friday the 22nd of March for a Qur’anic memorial service to mark a week since the attack on two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand.

The event was hosted by Abdullah Rehman, and began with a beautiful recitation from the Quran by Shaykh Nadi, a professional Quran reciter: “Had God willed He would have made us a single community . . . so compete with each other in doing good. . . . We make no distinction between the Prophets [including Jesus] To God we submit. . . .” You can view the whole event, including this wonderful recitation below:

Imam Ghulam Rasool, a Trustee & Vice Chairman of Bahu Trust spoke first. He is a respected scholar and schoolteacher. “Let not this divide us” he said. “In fact it will bring us together”. He said that the leadership shown in New Zealand has shown a new way for the whole world. “Islam”, he said, “is not taking over countries. Muslims have a long history of living with others”. His father had been a Corporal in the British army. ”We live in a world with people trying to divide us. Be on the side of righteousness and justice. It is our faith that gets us through this. Ask how can I be better? stronger? We need to build strong cohesive communities so that evil cannot trump us. Community is about reaching out to churches, synagogues, gurdwaras.

James Lynch from Riverside Church spoke next.  He had bought flowers the day after the massacre and handed them out to people leaving Birmingham’s Central Mosque. “How could anything we could try to express make a difference?. . . so I bought flowers to hand out . . . It has made connections across cultural and religious divides. . .Has led to a response” He hoped that his actions had sent “sparks of life against a backdrop of utter distress”. He held up a photograph of the man who had lost his wife in the attack and had publicly expressed understanding and forgiveness and said how impressed he was that this Muslim expressed the teachings of Jesus, whom he, James follows.

Ruth Jacobs offered reflection from a Jewish perspective. Sadly she couldn’t say it would be the last time something like this would happen. “What can we do to make a difference?” Ruth had sent emails from Birmingham’s Jewish community to as many Birmingham mosques as she could get email addresses for. Messages of thanks came back. “We have to build bridges, take little steps towards each other, building a language that will be for all of us.” Ruth reminded us that Jewish buildings in our city have had protection for years. We can’t all go to every event, she said, but between us we must go. In a prayer she asked that we may appreciate the spirituality of diversity and also prayed for the emergency services who have to respond to such terrible events.

Ajit Singh spoke next, a Sikh from the Nishkam Centre. We are all responsible for our words and actions and will have to account for them. It is a time for faiths to draw upon their teachings to instil in all of us good ways of thinking and speaking. We need to nurture good human beings. There should be no ‘stronger’ no ‘other’.

We then viewed a video from West Midlands mayor Andy Street and also heard from Inspector Neil Kirkpatrick of the West Midlands police. “Hate crimes will not be tolerated.”

The last speaker was Arousa Tahir, Manager at the Birmingham Quran Academy. She recited a poem by Jinghan Naan, penned in the aftermath of the New Zealand attacks. We were reminded that in
Muslim spirituality you can pass meritorious acts to the dead as gifts, thus our presence there together was as a gift to those who had departed.

The event finished with more sonorous recitation from the Quran and we were encouraged to write in the book of condolence. There was such a lovely atmosphere of welcome and hospitality. As I left people were still enjoying cups of tea and conversation. I love my city.