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  Interfaith Unity 

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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



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  



Essay by Chander Khanna


Chander Khanna, November 2005

Chander at Whirling

At a Mississauga interfaith event: People of all faiths joining a Sufi chanting circle (zikher), with a turning Dervish in the center. By permission of Stephen Epstein,

To quote Thomas Merton, we have reached a fork in the road in our individual and collective journeys as peoples, societies and cultures, where it is imperative to not just accept or tolerate each other’s faiths and belief systems, but to actually celebrate and share in the traditions of our neighbors.

According to the Upanishads, the quintessential repository of Eastern philosophy, there are three roads to choose from: The road taken by the intolerant is to view their own belief systems as perfect circles with all others as oddly shaped imperfections. The rational approach, taken by most of us, is to see all beliefs as equally valid, each nestled in concentric circles, and each with its own structure and internal logic. Except that mine is the outer circle. The egalitarian approach views everything in terms of triangles within the circle – almost like a pizza pie, with each slice having its own ingredients, flavour, and internal consistency. Each obeying the properties of the triangle within the circle. Above all, each triangle pointing to the same centre, the one Ultimate Reality – no matter from which direction, from which faith system one undertakes the journey.

Throughout history, people interacting with people have stimulated thought. Successful civilizations have flourished with the interaction of diverse cultures overcoming the notion that the only way to see things is the way your own people see things.

Yet, for every success story, there have been twice as many where things have gone horribly wrong.

IN THE BRIEF SPAN OF OUR EXISTENCE, WHAT HAVOC WE HAVE CREATED in the name of our faiths, our belief systems: from Jihads, Crusades, to Inquisitions. There have been the irrational claimants of the Biblical land, the fanaticism of the Hindutwa crusader, the relentless Fatwas against anyone questioning the interpretations of this or that doctrine. The killing fields of Cambodia, the Gulags, the ethnic cleansing of the Third Reich, Bosnia, Rwanda, Biafra. As well, there is the suicide bomber blowing up innocents in the air, land and the seas. It matters little whether the supremacy of one’s own doctrine is dreamed up by the uncivilized Taliban in the caves of Afghanistan or by the civilized SS Gestapo eating with forks and knives while listening to Bach. The list goes on and on. At least it’s democratic. It transcends all cultures in all eras.

But why these recurring cataclysms? Is peace, understanding and tolerance through cultural diffusion just a mirage? An academic indulgence? IS THE CANADIAN MULTICULTURAL EXPERIENCE ALSO DESTINED FOR INEVITABLE DISILLUSIONMENT?

I think not.

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One of the most pervasive forces in nature is the notion of separate and unique existence. This is the ultimate paradox, since in this age of Uncertainty Principles nothing is more certain than the certainty of our being part of the unbroken Whole. Yet, every entity in the Universe from the smallest Quark to the largest Galaxy, wittingly or unwittingly, seeks to preserve its separate identity. In humans it’s seen as I-ness, my wife, my house, the church I belong to versus the church of the same denomination you belong to on a different street, my belief system, my Christian bomb, your Jewish bomb, their atheist communist bomb, his Muslim bomb, her Hindu bomb.

In Canada we are favoured with unique circumstances which have been helping us to overcome this I-ness, this false sense of national, cultural or racial intolerance.

1 DEPTH OF CANADA’S MULTICULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS MOSAIC. There are great cosmopolitan cities - old or new: Bokhara, Samarkand, London, New York. But none match Canadian urban centers, inhabited not just by transient visitors or migrants from a dozen or so former colonies, but peopled by just about every race and ethnic background on this planet. The seeds of this cross-cultural influx were evident in the 1967 Montreal Expo where Man and His World - La Terre Homme – drew visitors from every corner of the globe, many of whom later adopted this land.

2 DEEP AND ABIDING RESPECT BY EACH SUCCESSIVE WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS FOR THE ANGLO SAXON FOUNDING FATHERS OF THIS GREAT NATION. The initial disruptions to the First Peoples seem to be atoned with each passing decade. There is widespread admiration for the vision, jurisprudence, and above all the values of social justice of the Anglo Saxon settlers who set the Canadian identity. So much so that centuries later, The Economist put Canada on its cover as the Beacon of Social Liberalism around the World.

3 ABSENCE OF INTERNAL STRIFE. Our neighbors to the South fought the War of Independence and the Civil War, with the root cause of the latter reverberating throughout its history. The specter of Quebec separatism looms large. But should separation occur, it will more likely be two adults reaching a settlement of sorts going their separate ways.

4 ABSENCE OF A DOMINANT MAJORITY OR MINORITY, what historian Toynbee calls the seeds of discontent leading to an inevitable collapse of the social order.

5 ABSENCE OF HATE MONGERS OR DEMAGOGUES. Would-be demagogues like Holocaust-denier Zundel, or a handful of ethnic extremists, have been just a handful of miscreants unable to sway any more than a periphery or fringe element in their midst.

In fact the worst of our racial or religious slurs have been no worse than the occasional misguided Imam sending an E-mail to his flock not to say Merry Christmas, or the Archbishop of Toronto stating on the eve of the late Pontiff’s last visit to Toronto that not all religions are of equal importance. To the many young people attending Mass at Downsview Park, including this writer as a privileged Hindu, the benign remark was just that, a harmless expression in the midst of euphoria.

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It is only in Toronto where a Catholic priest has been guiding one of the most enduring interfaith programs and conducts Meditation in the Eastern traditions with as much ease as he does in the Contemplative Way of the Desert Fathers. It is only in Toronto where a Holocaust survivor leads us in a passionate swirling of the Dervish dances in the Sufi tradition (see picture above). It is only in Toronto where a Yoga teacher speaks eloquently to her students about Virgin Mary and the Magnificat or Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Also, only in Toronto, where a devout Muslim speaks with passion about the Bhagavad Gita. Only in Toronto, where a mosque and a synagogue accommodate the overflow from each other’s parking lots, and together with the Buddhists and the Zoroastrians down the street along Bayview Avenue, jointly shelter and feed the homeless during sub-zero temperatures. Yet each of them are strong and unwavering in their own faiths. Only from within Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, immigrant refugees from distant lands become Premiers, Federal Ministers or Governor Generals.

But lest these be taken as merely anecdotal, a real transformation is taking place in our schools and in the shopping malls across Canada.

A QUIET HISTORY IN THE MAKING. With almost 150 ethnic origins represented in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and by extension in Canada, it is not uncommon to see a Palestinian-Canadian girl being the best friend of a schoolmate who has relatives refusing to leave the illegal settlements in the Promised Land. Nor to see a Hutu teenager befriending a Tutsi, a Sri Lankan Tamil dating a Sinhalese, or Catholic and Protestant teammates wondering what the fuss is all about in Belfast and Ulster.

It is these hyphenated Canadian children who will play significant roles as captains of industry and commerce, culture and arts, social activism, and as part of peacekeeping forces around the globe.

The true meaning of Globalization may yet be defined. Not in terms of supranational corporate empires. But the whole Global Village being finally seen as the home of the same genus of Homo Sapiens, with common ancestors competing as well cooperating with each other. It is in this area that the multicultural mosaic of Canada may end up playing the most significant role, as its sons and daughters contribute to a lessening of tensions amongst the warring factions in and amongst the lands of their parents and grandparents.

Chander Khanna
Toronto, November 2005

Chander Khanna is the organizer of the Ontario Branch of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Society, and one of the most active members of the Toronto interfaith community. He can be reached at 416-590-9645 or ckhanna1@msn.com

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The Interfaith Unity Newsletter is a free publication of Interfaith and Inter-Spiritual activities, news, and resources, 

in Toronto, Southern Ontario, Nationally and Internationally

Contact us at:  info@interfaithunity.ca