A powerful moment of sharing and brotherhood
That is in a nutshell how we would summarise this wonderful interfaith meeting held in Mehfile Zainab (Paris North Jamaat) in France on Saturday 6th April 2019. It was a date to remember in the history of the French Khoja Shia Ithna Ashari Jamaat as it was the first ever interfaith event co-organised with a Christian organisation called EFESIA. Its founder, Mr Gérard Testard, promotes Islamic-Christian friendship through meetings called “Together with Lady Mary” in Europe and Africa. This year, for the first time, he invited Shia communities to join the organising committee to widen the building of interfaith relationships. As he said: “I can tell you that this edition was really well organised and full of emotions and sincerity”.
The event was attended by almost 350 people including special guests such as Mr Gilles Poux, the Mayor of La Courneuve city, Father Amir Jaje, member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Shaykh Ismael Al Khaliq representing Al-Khoei Association, and presidents from the Bhora, Afghan, Pakistan and Paris Khoja communities. The First Secretary of the Iraqi Ambassador, Mr Haydar Al-Shimarti, also attended.
From left to right: M. Gérard Testard (president of EFESIA, founder of “Together in Mary” movement)
Shaykh Nadir Jaffer, Sheikh Sabir Lokhandwala, Vally Mollah and Vice President of ANJUMAN - E - BURHANI Association.
From left to right: Father Amir Jaje, member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Cheikh Ismael Al Khaliq representing Al-Khoei Association Monseigneur Michel Dubost,
former President of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Mr Haydar Al-Shimarti, 1st Secretary of the Iraqi ambassador & Shaykh Nadir Jaffer
After a few words from the Mayor who honoured the spirit of the event, the president of the hosting Jamaat, Hajji Azad Hedaraly opened the event by welcoming the assembly and reminding everyone how much this initiative was coherent with the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.
As is the normal tradition, the agenda consisted of recitations of extracts from the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran and moving testimonies from people inspired by Maryam, mother of Nabi Isa (as). The ceremony also included prayers from both communities and two inspiring speeches from special Christian and Muslim guests. Shaykh Nadir Jaffer, Head of External Tableegh of The World Federation’s Islamic Education Department, delivered an inspiring talk on the deep bond between the two monotheist faiths: “If in your place, Moses was sitting, and in your place, Jesus was sitting, and in your place, Mary herself was sitting, and the Holy Prophet (saw) and his daughter Sayyidah Fatimah (as) were sitting here, believe me, they would have been all united and like the flowers of a unique garden.”
This beautiful sentiment was also conveyed by Monseigneur Michel Dubost, the former President of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue: “I think that what is important and what unifies us is the deep conviction that there is a God, unique, greater than anything we can ever imagine, Who gave to our humanity a reflect of love. This reflects of love is named Mary.”
A perfect illustration of this friendship was the presentation of the latest World Federation publication, Sagesses de Jésus (Wisdom of Jesus) by Ayatullah Rayshahri. This work was translated by the Dar al-Hadith Institute in Qum and was brought to production with the assistance of the Who is Hussain France association. The book was given to all the guests, together with an elegant scarf and bookmark, with the message: “I send a prayer to my friend ….”. The gift was very well received and appreciated.
Sister Louise, from the EFESIA Executive Committee, shared her feelings about the book: “The realisation of this book is so moving, and it is so incredible to find this type of work. It is indeed a beautiful project that has been driven by this meeting and it reflects the meeting’s spirit.”
The event as a whole was highly appreciated by everyone; Sister Marlène from the St-Lucien parish said: “It was a great fraternal moment of sharing, and your hospitality was so touching. I met a Christian brother from the Emmanuel du Val d’Oise community who had tears in his eyes during the whole ceremony, and I was so happy to see that this man had found a haven of peace in your Mehfil.”
A Christian sister who was deeply touched said: “I will cherish this scarf for the rest of my life”.
Relive this moving ceremony by clicking on the link below:
For more information about “Together with Mary” meetings visit (French):
The World Federation of KSIMC publication - “Sagesses de Jésus” (Wisdom maxims from Jesus) by Ayatullah Rayshahri
From left to right: Cheikh Mortada Al Khaliq, representing Al-Khoei Association
Hajji Azad HEDARALY, president of Mehfile Zainab (Paris North Jamat)
Cheikh Ismael Al Khaliq representing Al-Khoei Association
Sheikh Moise Raza Abdul Momin resident Alim for Mehfile Zainab (Paris North Jamat)