The U.S. State Department is hosting the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom event, a summit being called the largest religious freedom event in history.
According to the Christian Post, the three-day event started Tuesday and some 1,000 civil society and political leaders from around the world are expected to attend.
“Much effort has been put into making this a very special week,” U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said during his introductory remarks.
“This is the largest human rights event ever hosted at the State Department and the largest religious freedom event ever done in the world. I hope you can sense and feel the importance of this moment in time. A global human rights movement centered on religious freedom is being launched from this meeting.”
As part of the summit, survivors of the Pittsburgh, Penn. shooting at a synagogue and survivors of the New Zealand mosque shooting delivered messages to attendees.
Dr. Farid Ahmad, who survived one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand, had previously said he forgave the shooter, and at the event, Ahmad said his faith was the reason he was able to forgive the man, who killed 51 people, including his wife.
“I had to respond and my response was that I offered my love and forgiveness for the killer,” Ahmad said.
“'Why did I do this?’ I receive this question frequently. The first reason is that I love him because he is my human brother. Quran has taught me that each and every human being is my brother or sister.”
Yamini Ravindran, legal and advocacy coordinator for the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, also told attendees about the Sri Lanka Easter bombings.
“This Easter Sunday, Christians in Sri Lanka went to church dressed in their finest clothing. But little did we know that this Easter was going to be different, that it was going to change the lives of many.”
She added: “The victims are broken and suffering. They are in great pain. However, they are on the path to recovery. Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace. That is what we see in Sri Lanka and is what we see in the Christian community in Sri Lanka."
Photo courtesy: U.S. State Department