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  Interfaith Unity 

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LINKS TO ESSAYS 

GOLDEN HEALING IN DAMASCUS , SYRIA

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE:  GLOBALISATION FOR THE COMMON GOOD 

GUIDELINES FOR ARRANGING GROUP VISITS TO HOUSES OF WORSHIP

POVERTY REDUCTION IN QUEBEC & NOW ONTARIO

The Golden Rule in World Religions

THE GOLDEN RULE POSTER Multi-faith Sacred Writings and Symbols from 13 Traditions  

Mayor David Miller Meets With The Toronto Area Interfaith Council

TRANSFORMING DEVELOPMENT Exploring Approaches to Development from Religious Perspectives

IMPRESSIONS ON THE URI ASIA REGIONAL ASSEMBLY in New Delhi, India

AN ODYSSEY IN FAITH By Farzana Hassan

A SALUTE TO CANADA My Adopted Land Of Unparalleled Multicultural And Religious Diversity

NAIN GATHERS IN VANCOUVER Stealing away to Paradise 

THE GOLDEN RULE: Unity in Diversity  

 

  

 

 

 

ESSAYS

 

GOLDEN HEALING IN DAMASCUS , SYRIA

By:  Judy Csillag, Director, Partnerships

Canadian Centre for Diversity www.centrefordiversity.ca

jcsillag@centrefordiversity.ca

 

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
John Lennon

 

One day last spring, my friend Hind Kabawat and I were enjoying the first new rays of a warm sun in her beautiful home. Hind was musing about her other home in Damascus where she was born and raised and from where she decided to devote herself to world wide peace activism.

“You must come to Syria ” she said between sips of a bottomless cup of Turkish coffee. “Sure,” I thought to myself. “What would a Jewish woman whose parents are both survivors of the Holocaust, be doing in Syria , a land with a long history of anti-semitism”

A few weeks later I received a phone call from the Canadian Embassy in Damascus asking if I would be interested in setting up and delivering an Interfaith Conference directed at women, both Muslim and Christian, who have had little contact with Western thought. The lure of such an opportunity kept going around in my mind.

And so began a six month period of researching and compiling workshops that would question without offending, educate without superiority, and above all have be innovative and soul searching. I knew that these interactions had to resonate for women with a very different mind set than the western students with whom I had worked with for years. “Will they get it?” was my constant inner question. I know these would be extremely bright women but had lived their lives were so different from mine: the western experience versus the eastern one.

“What am I doing?” I suddenly thought. In my head, I was doing exactly what I was teaching against – stereotyping this group before I had met them.

That was my “AH HA” moment as I carefully constructed a series of interactive workshops which included subjects such discrimination, stereotyping, racism, and inclusion. My main guiding principles and inspiration came from my many years working for the Canadian Centre for Diversity. At the Centre we have a vision: to build a society without prejudice and discrimination; a society that celebrates diversity, difference, and inclusion. We bring people together who are sometimes very different from one another and who might otherwise never have met. We teach them how to overcome fear and prejudice through information, education and involvement. We create safe havens in which they can engage in courageous conversations. We believe that the more we can look at one another with fresh eyes and without the preconceived notions that invariably lead to fear and bigotry, the better we will be able to eliminate prejudice.

The workshops on diversity, prejudice, racism and inclusion quickly fell in place. One of the sessions was devoted to The Golden Rule and the workshop was delivered with the help of materials from Paul McKenna of the Scarboro Mission.

Then the unthinkable happened. War unleashed itself in the cruellest way between Gaza and Israel . My confidence as an equal opportunity facilitator went out the window. I questioned myself endlessly on whether I should go, would I be met by hostility, would anyone want to listen to me as a Jewish woman bringing interfaith and diversity concepts to the Middle East ? I was scared and I questioned myself for days on end, speaking to anyone and everyone who would listen. Then the penny dropped. I realized that just by showing up, I would be making a huge statement. I am first a human being, a woman, just like they are on the other side of the planet. We are bound by the need to bring peace and understanding to a broken world, each of us bringing our hearts and minds to the task.

At the end of the day, the adventure and the Syrian women were full of hospitality and grace. They were welcoming, eager to learn, share and pay it forward. The group was comprised of women of all ages and stages of life, from very conservative Muslims to secular Christians, from stay-at-home mothers to law professors, from women experienced in the art of dialogue to neophytes exploring this new challenge. Together we embarked on a two day path of hope and optimism by learning new communication skills, skills in fighting racism, sexism, ageism, and any other ism we had time for. We broke bread together, laughed a lot and learned that basic respect and understanding are things that everyone wants and most importantly, everyone can give.

Politics and religion never presented a division between us, but rather we drew strength from our diverse backgrounds and experiences. This experience reinforced my firm opinion that saving and changing our world is in the hands of capable and passionate woman around the world. It will happen.

 

Judy Csillag, Director, Partnerships

Canadian Centre for Diversity www.centrefordiversity.ca

jcsillag@centrefordiversity.ca