Falls #Voicesforpeace event urges cease of Gaza hostilities

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Nov. 10—NIAGARA FALLS — With Israel and Hamas militants at war for the past month in the Gaza Strip, many religious leaders have called for the conflict to end, those in Western New York included.

The Ahmaddiya Muslim Community has launched its #Voicesforpeace campaign to help end the fighting. Its Buffalo chapter hosted a talk at its mosque on Colvin Boulevard Thursday night, inviting speakers of different faiths to give their thoughts about the situation.

Chapter President Nasir Khan said similar session are being held at the organization's chapters across the United States and the world.

"We may disagree on the way the condition needs to be handled, but we all have to come together and strive for peace," Khan said.

Among those speaking were David Williams of Buffalo Zen Dharma Community, Sr. Mary McCarrick of Catholic Charities, Rabbi Yonina Foster, Imam Qasid Masir and Rasul Khan, president of the Network of Religious Communities. Each of them talked about the need to find peace through their religious perspectives.

"The word Islam means peace," Imam Masir said, condemning the attacks by Hamas. "Everything about Islam points toward peace."

Since the current hostilities started on Oct. 7, at least 1,400 Israelis and 10,000 Palestinians have died, and most of the Palestinians were civilians.

Video sermons from the Ahmaddiya community's caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, were shown, in which he stated his feeling that the war could spread beyond the Middle East and no western leaders are currently acting toward justice. He urged prayer for the oppressed Muslims.

As part of the campaign, members of the Ahmaddiya Muslim Community are writing letters to world leaders, urging them to bring the conflict to an end. From American chapters, those letters are also being sent to President Joe Biden and members of Congress.

Khan said there is only so much that individuals thousands of miles away from the conflict can do, so they can only try to get people to form a bond with those affected.

"The bottom line is everybody in their heart wants peace," Khan said. "That's what we should be striving for right here in our neighborhood as well as somebody else's neighborhood."

Laura Ponivas and Jessica Miller, two teachers in the Niagara Wheatfield school district, were invited by some of their students. They have attended other religious events for other students; this was their first such Muslim event.

"Everybody wants there to be a ceasefire," Miller said. "Nobody wants to take other people's lives and we're all in it together in the form of humanity."