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Co-Chair Heather Fletcher's speech at Adam Day 2018

10 August 2018

Adam Day is organised each year on 10 August by the UK arm of the Azeemia Foundation. The purpose of the event is to bring people together to reflect on mankind's common descent from Adam.

Our Co-Chair Heather Fletcher made a speech based on the cases when Muslims and Jews have saved each other in times of war. It is reproduced below with her permission.

Speech

Good evening ladies, gentlemen and distinguished guests. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak from a Jewish perspective at this wonderful 16th Adam Day.

Recently some prominent people have been making insensitive and inflammatory remarks which seek to divide us and create dis-unity, but it is important for us to remember that, whatever our faiths or creeds, we are all members of one family, the family of Adam or the human family and so we should stick together and show caring for each other always triumphs over hate.

Although we have differences in our faiths and should celebrate diversity and we should note there are similar themes in all faiths. For example, in the Jewish faith it is stated in the Talmud “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire” and in the Islamic faith it is also stated “Whoever saves a life, it is written as if he has saved the entire world.”

As I am Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum I would like to share with you two stories of Muslim people and Jewish people saving each others’ lives.

Destan Balla

Destan Balla and his wife Lime were Albanian Muslims.

In 1943, 17 Jewish people came to their village having escaped the Germans. The villagers divided up these 17 people between themselves and the Balla family took in the three Jewish Lazar brothers.

The Lazars lived with the Balla family for 15months and even though the Ballas were poor, they gave food and shelter to the Lazars. They also made the Lazars dress like local farmers, so they would not be distinguishable from the Albanian Muslims.

When the Lazars left for Pristina, it was Destan Balla’s nephew who sheltered them until the end of the war. So, this brave Albanian Muslim family, the Balla family, saved the Jewish Lazar brothers from certain death by the Nazis.

Zoran Mandlbaum

In the 1990’s, during the Bosnian war, Zoran Mandlbaum, a Bosnian Jew organised humanitarian convoys carrying packages for others living on the other side of Mostar.

These packages of food and medicines were a lifeline to the starving Muslims of eastern Mostar. Janja Velkovic, a Muslim, stated “Zoran gave me a loaf of bread when I was desperately hungry and also restored my faith in humanity.

There was an assassination attempt on Zoran’s life as some were not happy about him giving humanitarian aid. However, this assassination attempt didn’t stop Jewish Zoran from continuing to help Muslim people at risk of murder, rape, torture and starvation.

Concluding comments

It takes enormous courage to save lives and not many of us will ever get such an opportunity. However, we can all play our part in society by mixing together, becoming friends and helping each other in hours of need even though we are from different backgrounds and faiths. Mixing together and diversity enriches our lives. It is working together, unity and learning from each other which provides for a happier and more peaceful society.

As Helen Keller, the young blind American writer, said: “Alone we can do so little – together we can do so much.

Thank you.

 

 

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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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