Eid at Croke Park sends powerful message of Peace and Diversity to the world

The Muslim celebration of Eid Al Adha took place at Croke Park on a bright sunny Friday morning in Dublin.

Following strict Government health and safety guidelines all places of worship were closed for a few long months. However, the nation had been coping very well and we were fast approaching phase 4 of reopening the nation but this was delayed to ensure we did not incur an early second wave.

We therefore had to adjust the numbers wishing to attend this most historic occasion at Croke Park. We had initially proposed that 500 could attend the celebration whilst still adhering to the somewhat relaxed restrictions.

On Friday we saw an attendance of approximately 200 worshippers walk through the iconic gates of Croke Park, the GAA headquarters.

Many dignitaries also attended. All hailing from different backgrounds.

Archbishops Diarmud Martin and Michael Jackson were warmly received. As was Rabbi Zalman Lent.

Minister Roderick O’ Gorman T.D. was also in attendance. The GAA was proudly represented by Mark Dorman.

The celebratory ceremony opened with an echoing recitation of the glorious Qur’an by Zam Zam Ismael. The arabic punctuated the stadium’s respectful silence.

This indeed will enter the annals of Irish history.

If one did not understand what had been recited a wonderfully delivered translation was kindly provided by Hajra Ellyas.

The historic introductions had been made and the mood was set. Now it was time to hear the first speech delivered by Minister Roderick O’Gorman. He is the minister for Children, Communities and Integration.

He had attended an Iftar assembly hosted by the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council previously “but this was by far a bigger venue” he warmly reflected.

He was pleased that he had been invited and was honoured to deliver his speech on a momentous day in Irish history.

He lavished due praise upon the GAA and Croke Park alike. Stating that “he  had recognised the efforts these organisations have made to include a representation of today’s mixed and diverse society.”

He spoke on how this occasion was a true representation of the Irish nation.

The esteemed minister expressed gratitude for the hard efforts and work done on the front line by members across all communities.

He concluded stating that when “we accept, embrace and recognise our differences we strengthen ourselves, our communities and our nation.”

Now it was time for the Irish Muslim Peace and Intgration Council Chairperson, His Eminence Shaykh Dr Umar  Al-Qadri’s much anticipated welcome speech and a delivery of a powerful historic pre Eid prayer.

He began with blessings in Arabic and honoured the significance of the historic location beginning his introduction in Irish.

Reminding the celebrants as to what Eid Al Adha is about, commemorating the great sacrifice of the Prophet of God Abraham, the esteemed Shaykh spoke of his deep gratitude to Croke Park and it’s management and the Irish nation as a whole.

“Ireland is indeed a country of Cead Mile Failte” he quoted in Irish. “This Eid prayer is sending a very strong message that Ireland is indeed a country of a hundred thousand welcomes”.

Speaking upon Ireland’s unique ability to adopt and embrace all communities in ‘a way one feels part of the society’ he gave an example every one knew of. This nation’s reverence and love for the beloved Irish saint, St.Patrick.

The genesis of this momentous occasion occured 2 months ago. He saw the German Muslims praying in an Ikea car park. He was thinking that the pandemic would be with us for a long time and asked himself where would we Irish Muslims pray the next Eid. “The Irish are proud of their diversity, where is the most iconic place to host Eid Al Adha?”

Croke Park! A deeply unique Irish symbol. Each and every person in Ireland knows intimately of the power this magnetic cauldron draws.

“It’s part of Irishness”, the Shaykh enthused.

He approached Croke Park Management requesting for them to host Eid Al-Adha. Croke Park immediately agreed to honour the Shayk’s trailblazing request. Immediately establishing a thorough framework from which to base the frantic plans.

“We could never have imagined that we would be praying our Eid prayer in Croke Park, he graciously proclaimed. “I wish to thank the GAA and Croke Park on this historic day. Also I wish to thank RTE for deciding to carry out live coverage of today’s ceremony. It’s the first time in a non muslim majority country that the national T.V station has done so.”

The Shaykh explained some of the beautiful verses from the Qur’an exemplifying the “Divine Will” in the acceptance and acknowledgement of  our differences. “It is in line with our Islamic Teachings.” He went on to say that we as Muslims need to “re-educate” ourselves with these beautiful teachings and implement them in our lives.

The ultimate message from commemorating Eid Al Adha is the willingness of Ibraheem AS to submit to ALLAHS request. The ensuing conversation between this honoured father and son plainly shows us the importance of asking from a place of love and understanding others opinions. “There is no compulsion in faith” the Shaykh went on. “We cannot force our vision or faith upon one another”. Ibraheem AS asking his son Ismael AS about his opinion emphasises the importance of religious freedom.

Addressing the global pandemic he said that everybody’s life had changed remembering the lives across all communities that have been lost because of the pandemic.

Although there have been many hardships and sacrifices this pandemic has brought with it blessings.

“If it was not for this our communities may not have been united.”

He reminded us to adhere to all the rules, restrictions and regulations in order to protect each other as is the Sunnah. 

He supplicated to the Almighty requesting “the taufiq” to follow the recommendations made by the HSE, for peace, compassion, unity and strength.

“Millions across the world are celebrating, shower peace and mercy and compassion on them. Wherever they are offering their prayer please accept it from them”

Further supplicating for the removal of the pandemic the Shaykh requested from the Amighty to grant our “Ummah” shifa, ability and strength. Guide our leaders in emerging from the pandemic.” 

Concluding his prayer he expressed his Eid Blessings upon the worshipers and distinguished guests. 

All in attendance were honoured to hear from the Irish President Michael D. Higgins’ warm Eid blessings via a letter read eloquently by Kildare man, Brian Coonan. 

The President stated, “Croke Park hosting this Eid Event displays the importance of the moment within the Irish narrative. It reminds us of the richly diverse community we have become and the enormous contribution that you, our new communities, have made and continued to make to Ireland.”

He expressed his gratitude for the role Irish muslims have played in contributing to Irish society especially those on the front line. The message was warmly received by the attendees.

It was time we heard from the host!

Up steps Mark Dorman, Stadium & Business Director for Croke Park. He honoured all with an Arabic greeting paired wonderfully with an Irish greeting.

“Croke Park is privileged and honoured to host the Eid prayer. We recognise the importance of the sacred festival and delighted to play a small role.”

He continued to say that Croke Park is the “centre of Irish culture and today is living proof of our motto “Where we all belong”.

He commented that “We need to strive to ensure barriers are broken down and we salute and thank the muslim community for the huge role and dedication in keeping us safe throughout the pandemic.”

He continued, “Your contribution is greatly appreciated and we wish you joy, peace, happiness and prosperity. A warm Eid Mubarak”.

All three Abrahamic Faith leaders were present and it was the time to hear from His Eminence Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

The esteemed Archbishop said he was “happy to wish the entire Muslim community here in Ireland a warm Eid Mubarak”.

“Although he was saddened at the restrictive numbers there was ‘something special’ taking place in the history of Ireland”

Croke Park is accustomed to receiving distinguished guests, Queen Elizabeth, Pope Francis and many others are but a few examples.

“But today is a new chapter in the history of Croke Park and is a gesture in publically recognising the place of the Muslim community has as an integral part of the family of Ireland and recognises the contribution to the Ireland of today and tomorrow.”

His Eminence shared Pope Francis’ Ramadan letter where the Pope states the importance the roles that spiritual healing, growth, and sharing with the poor, play on an individual, family and community level.

“The Pope visited Baku, Azerbayjan in 2016” his Eminence said and quoted the Popes following statement, 

‘ Meeting one another as fraternal friends in a place of worship is a powerful sign of harmony.’

The distinguished guest, followed by saying that Muslim families have enriched the Irish culture and are hard working and encourage good family life practices and are creative. 

“The younger generations of Irish Muslims can proudly profess their faith and shape the place of Islam in the Irish culture”. He went on to say that “places of worship are spaces for spiritual hospitality and I am humbled at the spiritual hospitality I have received this morning.”

His Eminence then referred us to the Human Fraternity, World Peace and Living Together document signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar in Abu Dhabi on 4th February 2019.

In this paper it was agreed that places of worship are important to protect. However, more importantly is the fostering and nurturing of the spirit in preparation to emerge into the world.

“All 3 Abrahamic Faiths share a common responsibility to witness to what is demanded today.”

“Our places of worship are spaces where all intolerances are shunned and respect is revered, where hearts are open and embrace all, where hands are supportive and not to push away, and where minds are compassionate and not judgemental”.

He concluded his speech with a simple message “Eid is a joyful celebration with a forceful presence in developing spiritual growth, sharing and building communities. I go away today hopeful.”

Waiting patiently, the Archbishop Michael Jackon of the The Church Of Ireland takes to the platform.

He thanked Croke Park and tbe GAA for their invitation to attend on a “truly momentous and historic ocassion.”

He echoed the previous speakers’ call to peace “as it is the lifeblood” of every faith.

He honoured the workers at the frontline and paid tribute to those who lost their lives. He expressed the many hardships we all face on a day to day basis in striving to create a balance and adjust to a new normal. 

He stressed a phrase the Health Minister Simon Harris used in the early days of the pandemic. “Kindness” is the connection and a shared truth of all acts of faith. Using this  as a basis of building communities he concluded, “Time us in our hands.”

To our final Faith leader, Rabbi Zalman Lent. 

He began with a sporting quip saying “Theres a saying here in Ireland ‘that religion is a sport!’ But I’m not sure this is what they meant!”

The Rabbis speech was short and sweet making references to our “one shared God”. 

He said that even living amidst the global pandemic it is a special time to spend together in a climate of “not hate, but love, kindness, brotherhood and peace.”

He concluded with a prayer in Hebrew and wished Eid Mubarak.

In such an iconic historicalbsporting stadium it would be an awful loss uf we did not mention a hurl or a puc!

So without any further delay we heard from Abood Aljumaili also known as Bonnor O’Loingsigh.

He captivated the guests with his inspiring story of integration into the Irish culture. Growing in love with the fastest sport on the planet! Hurling.

He has fully embraced the GAA’s motto of “Where we all Belong” and is sporting a full Irish accent strongly accompanied with his hurl!

Report by : Sister Karen Eeman Kirwan

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