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‘Stop Netanyahu Now’ — Muslim, Jewish and Christian Leaders Call on Biden to Demand Gaza Ceasefire

By Delonte Harrod, March 30, The Intersection Magazine

District Heights, MD (South County) — On March 28, Maher Karma, a member of the Prince George’s Muslim Association, stood in front of the Hemingway African American Methodist Episcopal Church with Christian pastors, political leaders, and community activists listening to Jameel Aalim-Johnson, president of the Prince George’s County Muslim Council, draw upon his Muslim faith to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. Then Aalim-Johnson called on him to speak.

Referring to the now unfortunate state of Palestinian people in Gaza, Karma, a Palestinian, said the plight of his people did not begin the day after Oct. 7, when Israel, in retaliation, began to excessively bomb civilian Palestinians for Hamas’ attack on Israel. For him, it started in 1948 when Israel launched a campaign to remove Palestinians from their land.

During the month of Ramadan and Holy Week, Muslims, Jews, Black pastors, activists, and local politicians gathered at the Hemingway AME Church in District Heights, Maryland, calling for county council members and the Biden administration to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

“There’s no way that we weren’t going to open our doors,” said Rev. Krishnan Natesan, pastor of Hemingway AME Church. “This is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish thing. This is a humanitarian thing – and because it’s a human thing, we must extend compassion. Compassion must ring out for the least of these.”

Speaking about the manufactured humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Matesan said the least of these “is a baby that lost its mother, or the over 10,000 children that are now gone.” He said every life must matter, and it’s because of this belief he is calling on elected officials to advocate for a permanent ceasefire.

Chief Imam Alhaji Teslim Alghali said the U.S. has power and influence around the planet, and champions human rights abroad. President Joe Biden, he said, admits that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Due to America’s power and influence, Biden must intervene.

“In the hadith the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, says, ‘Help your brother, whether he’s an oppressor or he is being oppressed,” said Alghali. “His companions will ask him, and they did ask him, ‘We can understand when someone is oppressed. We are here to help him, but what about when he is the oppressor?’ (Muhammad) answered, ‘Prevent him from oppressing others.’ Western guidance can give…Netanyahu an ultimatum and say, ‘This is enough.’ Because, after all, (Biden) is the most powerful person in the free world.”

 “We call on the president, the House and Senate, and our officials to stop Netanyahu now,” Alghali proclaimed. “

Political activists, former Prince George’s County activists, and Muslim Raaheela Ahmed also spoke. In part, Ahmed was there representing 28 signatories of a letter urging County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Jolene Ivey, chair of the Prince George’s County Council, and Sydney Harrison, vice-chair of the county council, to call for a permanent ceasefire.

“We, the undersigned current and former elected officials in Prince George’s County, take a public stance in favor of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine,” Ahmed read from the letter as she stood before the audience. “We are asking you to join us in doing the same. Please come together to support peace, and take a unified, public stance supporting a ceasefire. Know that by speaking up, you would not be alone.”

After months of Israel’s bombing in Gaza, activists started to protest in Prince George’s County, and D.C. Activists have protested against Congressman Glenn Ivey, Angela Alsobrooks, and David Trone. Alsobrooks and Trone have both said they support a ceasefire. Gov. Moore, after making statements of standing with Israel, has recently told a Muslim organization that he supports a permanent ceasefire.

Wala Blegay, a District 6 county council member, is of Liberian-Nigerian descent. Blegay said she understands what it means to petition the U.S. to intervene to save lives in another country. She began her activism at a young age in the 1990s during the Liberian Civil War. Along with her family, she said, they went to the D.C. Council and other politicians “begging” them to put pressure on the U.S. to intervene in Africa because her family members were dying in the conflict.

“I will tell you that when I look at what’s happening in Gaza, I see my family,” said Blegay. “As a 5-year-old, we walked down (government) halls pleading. We live in a powerful country, so we need to raise our voices. So I’m doing this because now I’m in a position where people can walk down the hall and talk to me.”

Blegay said she is calling for a ceasefire now. “I don’t think that it should be an issue. Don’t let them tell you that the budget is going to be the issue. It’s not an issue. This is not an Israel versus Palestinian issue. This is a humanitarian issue.”

“As a Christian, there is no way that my faith will allow me to sit silently from any position of power that God graces me with,” said Krystal Oriahda, district 7 council member. “I have to be called to scream and yell and to demand justice and peace. Demand the love that God calls for me to have. So many people in positions of power are claiming to be something they’re not. They claim a faith, a morality, and a value that I cannot see.”

Del. Gabriel Acevero, representative of District 39 in Montgomery County, thanked the local AME church’s leadership at Hemingway and others across the nation for standing in solidarity with Palestinians. A thousand Black pastors across the country have called for a permanent ceasefire in the region. 

He talked about where his passion comes from on this issue. He represents the Muslim and Arab communities of Montgomery County. Furthermore, he introduced to the General Assembly House Joint Resolution 2. The resolution does many things: it condemns Hamas’ attacks on Oct. 7 and Israel’s response to it, it supports a permanent ceasefire, a return of all hostages, and provides humanitarian aid to Palestinians. If passed, the legislation would publicly oppose Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab hate speech.

In a speech, Acevero also encouraged community members not to forget the violation of Palestinian rights in the West Bank. He said thousands of illegal settlements are “being built and approved on Palestinian land.” He claimed that such settlements violate international law and the U.S. Department of State guidelines. (To this last statement, it should be noted here that the U.S. has been inconsistent about Israel’s West Bank settlements. However, Amnesty International has clearly stated that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is a violation of international law).

“If public officials can say, ‘Ramadan Mubarak,'” said Acevero, “they can say ceasefire now, and they can show up. This is a moment of moral justice. This is a moment of where you stand.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by The Intersection Magazine.

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FM Editors
FM Editors
Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.

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