U.S. Ambassador hosted an interfaith Iftar to observe Ramadan

Ambassador Erica J. Barks-Ruggles giving her remarks

On June 6, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Erica J. Barks-Ruggles,  hosted an interfaith Iftar to observe Ramadan and honor the Muslim community in Rwanda. Around 120 guests representing prominent members of the Muslim community, other religious, government, and civil society leaders, and Embassy staff responded to the invitation. Deputy Mufti Sheikh Swaleh Nshimiyimana was the guest of honor.

Remarks by Ambassador Barks-Ruggles
Ambassador’s Residence, June 6, 2017

  • Honorable Mr. Isaac Munyakazi, Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education
  • Sheikh Nshimiyimana Swaleh, Vice Mufti of the Rwanda Muslim Community (Guest of Honor)
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps and International Organizations (High Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania, Embassy of Algeria, UNICEF, World Bank, Kingdom of Morocco)
  • Other Government representatives
  • Members of the Rwanda Muslim Community and Muslim Women Association
  • Religious leaders of all faiths and creeds
  • All Protocol observed;

As-salamu alaykum.  May peace be upon you.

Muraho. Welcome to my home.

Thank you for taking your time to join with us here in breaking the fast.  It is an honor for me to welcome you to this interfaith Iftar dinner.

Ramadan is a time when friends, family, and communities come together in unity.  It is a time when Muslims recommit themselves to their faith.  It is a time of spiritual renewal and a reminder of one’s duty to our fellow humans.

By being here, you are helping us to recognize the sacredness of Ramadan to more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.  In the United States and in Rwanda, we hold to the principal that people of all religions should be able to exercise their faith freely, without fear.  This is a principle upheld by all the faith groups present here this evening and reminds us that the tenets of peace, justice, and friendship are central to all of our faith traditions and worth celebrating.

Some people in the United States and around the world disagree.  They, out of hate and intolerance, attempt to suppress religious freedom and harass others for practicing their faith.  In the United States, they forget that our Constitution protects that freedom.  In our founding documents, the First Amendment states simply that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

When these values are threatened, we come together across all faiths to support and protect one another.  We saw this in January this year in the United States when members of the Christian and Jewish community offered their centers of worship to Muslim neighbors who lost their mosque in a hate crime.

And we see this in Rwanda from the strong support of members of the Muslim community in the reconciliation process.

By coming together, we deepen our understanding of our own faith, recognize the diversity within faiths, and actively participate in each other’s traditions.  It is important that we continue to find ways to join each other and to lift up the stories and voices of the Americans and Rwandans who are contributing to our countries every day—and to find ways to give voices to members of the community who might otherwise be voiceless.

Muslim leaders in Rwanda have made clear that this is a priority:  upholding the richness of religious diversity and defending the rights of all.

At the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, we incorporate these values into our work each day as we seek to make the world a better place for all people.  We are one team reflecting the diversity of the United States and Rwanda alike.  Every day our team commits itself to work together to build a safer, more prosperous future for Rwanda, East Africa, and the whole world.

This evening together will allow us to discuss and celebrate these shared values.  Tonight, as we break the fast, we are joined by Muslims in Rwanda, in the United States, and around the world.  May we keep in our prayers those who are suffering around the world, including those marking Ramadan in areas of conflict, deprivation, and hunger.

We are fortunate to live in societies where acceptance and tolerance are of high importance.  This is a standard we must always work to preserve.  Let us listen to each other, and learn from each other, as we all seek to build a global community that respects every individual,  seeks common ground to work on common problems, and in which people of all faiths can live in harmony and work together to help those in need.

Once again, I would like to thank you all for coming, and on behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I wish you all Ramadan Mubarak.

I would now like to give the floor to Deputy Mufti Sheikh Swaleh Nshimiyimana, to share a few thoughts with us this evening.