FDR Freedom Award Ceremony
Channel: Bashar Shala
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Please welcome senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Jonathan's sorrows kings Commissioner Han Pohlman, from the province of Zeeland, in the Netherlands and Elizabeth Roosevelt Johnston as they present
the freedom of worship Award to Dr. Bashar Shala, chairman of the Memphis Islamic Center, and Reverend Dr. Steve stone, founding pastor at Heartsong Church and the executive director of the Memphis Friendship Foundation.
Thank you, it's my honor to read the citation that accompanies the freedom of worship metal.
Today what it does not have to look far to find religious division in this country and throughout the world. Many of the first immigrants to what would become the United States came in search of religious liberty, the right to worship, however, one sees fit has been enshrined in our Constitution. It is a fundament foundational freedom. Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1941, the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, everywhere in the world. Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948 said, basic human rights are simple and easily understood freedom of religion and worship. We must not be diluted by the efforts of the forces of reaction to prostitute the great words of our
free tradition, and therefore thereby to confuse the struggle.
In a time when religious violence from distant shores dominates news coverage, it can be easy to think of religion as a source of rancor. But Pastor stone and Dr. Schaller through the Memphis fried Friendship Foundation, you found it together in Tennessee, we can see religion as a source of comfort. Together, you have demonstrated that people of different faiths can come together, united by a commitment to the greater good to build something beautiful.
In 2009, when you Dr. Shala, sought to establish the Memphis Islamic center, you and your congregation needed a place to pray while your mosque was being built. You found a friend and an open door at the Heartsong church, a Christian house of worship, led and co founded by Pastor Steve stone.
This was to be more than a powerful example of southern hospitality. Through this shared space to communities often portrayed as being as at odds came to know respect and love one another. Members of both your congregations have been able to build fuller and more meaningful lives by learning about different cultures and coming to understand the importance of standing together as a community strengthened by its diversity. In the years since your congregations began to celebrate celebrating Thanksgiving together, and hosting regular picnics and gatherings.
And you have sought to take this community to even greater heights with the building of Friendship Park, a community space in which people of all backgrounds races regardless of race, culture or creed can come together, learn from one another and form lasting bonds. In America, we are guided by the phrase a pluribus unum, out of many one in these polarized times. That can sound to some like wishful thinking.
But you both show that this vision is alive and well. In the United States. You prove that people don't pray to don't have to pray the same way to enrich each other's lives and make their entire communities better. freedom of worship is only safe when people of all faiths can pray as they choose. Thank you for devoting your lives to your religious communities and to an America where this freedom is protected and celebrated. It is our honor to award you both tonight with the freedom of worship metal.
The gift of freedom,
the privilege of freedom
as long as our
member freedom was all I wanted.
I never forget that night as a young boy and Aleppo, Syria, where I was born and raised when I was awakened in my own bed by a soldier with an AK 47 pointed at my face.
It was the night visitors of the tyrannical regime, searching our apartment, interrogating everyone, not allowing my father and mother to be in the same room with us.
I was on I was 13 years old, the oldest who had to comfort my younger brother, who was sleeping with me in the same room.
They left the apartment building with our next door neighbor,
who was a geological engineer who truly loved the Earth. father of four children, the youngest of which was a two year old girl.
His oldest son was my best friend.
He was accused of political dissent.
He never returned home.
A year later, they came from my uncle, Uncle abdulmajeed.
He was also accused of defending the rights of political detainees, and for asking the military junta to respect their own handwritten constitution.
He was incarcerated for 10 years,
never accused any crimes never asked a question never offered the trial.
He was eventually released to die at home with terminal cancer. The state did not want to provide care for
from a young age, I knew freedom is not free.
I know all I wanted is to be free,
free to express my thoughts and beliefs.
Three to worship according to what I believe,
free from being enslaved, to chasing after my daily bread, free from fear of oppression, persecution and tyranny.
And that's what the four freedoms is all about.
Freedom is worth jumping in a boat, and risking everything for its promise.
Freedom is worth working for paying for sacrificing for and yes, dying for.
And it's only the ones who once lost his their freedom. Understand how precious it truly is.
It was FDR that said, we must guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens. Whatever their background, we must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.
These words, among other made me an American, even before I immigrated to this country. I came here when I was 23. And I pledged I will work to fight for freedom for everyone until my last breath.
Freedom needs guarding needs relentless and continuous work. And nothing more obvious. As we look around today at the explosion of civil rights problems, turning our backs on refugees and freedom seekers and the reemergence of Neo fascism. It was also if they are that said I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making.
So we must decide what kind of nation we are now. And what kind of nation we want to be, what one a nation we want to become, and what example we sit for we set forth for the world.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us in the path of freedom. But this work has never been more important than it is today. I'm truly humbled by this award. I thank the Roosevelt Institute for this greatest honor and privilege bestowed upon me. I thank everyone at the Memphis Islamic center and Heartsong church who are the real heroes of our story. And I dedicate this award for all those seeking freedom from oppression and longing for better tomorrow. Thank you