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CALENDAR OF EVENTS

July 2020
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Speeches

G.R. Rahman: Children of Abraham Project

In many countries around the world, children are suffering because of war, conflict, hunger, and disease. They are growing up before their time, taking on roles and responsibilities that are not theirs to take. I once met a young Afghan refugee in Pakistan who told me, “When I grow up, I will have an army. I will avenge the death of my father and brother. I will kill those who dishonored my sister.” He was nine years old.

My hope is that someone, somewhere, helped channel his anger into positive energy. None of us can give him back his childhood, but my hope is that our children will inherit a world where a child talks about books and toys and not about avenging the deaths of his loved ones.

Our children are growing up with the imagery of chaos. The Internet has linked the world’s population in previously unimaginable ways as a force for good. But it has also become a tool for disseminating images and messages that are destructive and counterproductive. In recent years, I as a Muslim have sadly witnessed the Internet being used to persuade many young boys to commit grossly violent acts in the name of a perverse misinterpretation and degradation of the Qur’an. These young minds have been brought into an abyss and a void.

Children of Abraham, an international non-profit organization, believes that youth dialogue is critical if we want to have a safer world. The organization uses the Internet as a subversive tool, bypassing many of the parents, teachers, and clerics who would like to see our two peoples remain in mutual isolation.

Children of Abraham’s Youth Forum provides a means for Jews and Muslims to communicate directly, unmediated by adults with ulterior motives. Teenagers are mature enough to take advantage of educational opportunities like Children of Abraham, while young enough to be transformed by them.

I have recently learned of a wonderful teaching from a Jewish tradition in the Mishnah, which predates Islam by several centuries. It says, “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to ignore it.”

Building an environment of hope and opportunity, not anger and despair, is a task we may not finish. But we cannot ignore and thereby condone a culture of violence that tramples the innocent lives of children and fosters enmity instead of love.

 

[Source: Islamic Perspectives on Peace. Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2006.]