Ambassador Akbar Ahmed Leads Interfaith Delegation to Offer Condolences to the Indian Embassy
By Jonathan Hayden
From left: Jawed Ashraf, Reverend Carol Flett, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, and Deputy Chief Minister Ambassador Arun Singh
The coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India on November 26 intensified a sometimes icy relationship between Pakistan and India. The world is watching the developments closely as the two powers negotiate the future.
With this in mind, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed put together a delegation of members of the Abrahamic faiths publicly offering condolences to the Indian Embassy on Monday December 8. Joining Ahmed was Rabbi Scott Sperling, Regional Director of the Union for Reform Judaism, Reverend Carol Flett of the Washington National Cathedral and Stephen Stern from the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. Deputy Chief Minister Ambassador Arun Singh and Political Counselor Jawed Ashraf received the delegation.
“We are here to offer our sympathy and compassion for the victims and their families and to pray for peace”, Ahmed told the embassy officials.
Ashraf was very grateful to the delegation. “This has been a tough week. Everyone around the world shares our grief. The killers were indiscriminate in their target. Muslims, Jews Hindus and Christians were killed”.
Ambassador Singh was touched by the delegation as well. “Thank you for taking the trouble to come here.” He was optimistic about the future. “The response in India has been strong. People from all faiths have come together. This will not challenge our coexistence”.
Ashraf agreed, “There has been measured caution from India. There is a turn toward a positive direction.” He added that the “sentiments in the United States have been phenomenal”.
The group had a moment of silent reflection and prayer for the victims and their families and for the concepts of compassion and justice to guide the leaders of Pakistan and India.
Compassion and justice are fundamental concepts in all of the faiths and these deep-seated concepts were again on display the following night at the Cannon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill at the RUMI Peace and Dialogue Awards Ceremony hosted by the Rumi Forum.
Reverend Carol Flett, Prof Akbar Ahmed, Jawed Ashraf, and Rabbi Scott Sperling
Ambassador Ahmed received the Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi Award. The award is given annually to “extraordinary individuals and organizations who have greatly contributed their time, energy, leadership and dedication to the cause of dialogue, peace, tolerance, community service and understanding.”
Introducing and presenting the award to Ahmed was his friend and colleague, Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.
Lustig spoke of their first meeting just after September 11, 2001 at a “fateful” dinner when he and his wife Amy switched tables and sat next to Ahmed. The friendship and work together has grown since then initiating with Bishop John Chane of the Washington National Cathedral the First Abrahamic Summit and participating in many public dialogues around the country.
Lustig asked the audience to note the symbolism of a Rabbi, whose family lived through the Holocaust, presenting an award named after a Muslim to a Muslim professor and former Ambassador from Pakistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. “Only in America”, he said.