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  Interfaith Unity 

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LINKS TO ESSAYS 

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  

 

 

 

AN ODYSSEY IN FAITH

By Farzana Hassan

President of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of "Islam, Women and the Challenges of today"

April is the month when Jewish people and Christians celebrate Passover and Easter.  For me, a Muslim, April 2007 was a time of spiritual odyssey, as a synagogue and a Christian church welcomed me into their worship services and learning circles.

 At Temple Emanuel , a Reform synagogue, I was given the opportunity to share my views on women and Islam.  And I learned from Rabbi Debra Landsberg about the Jewish traditions on the status of women.  The audience was exuberant, asking many questions: polygamy in our modern world, the veiling of Muslim women,  divorce, custody and alimony.

 I found myself among friends who were eager to see a better life for the millions of Muslim women who are suffering from malnutrition, disease and discrimination.  There was an outpouring of sympathy from these Jewish women for their Muslim sisters many miles away, women they had never met.  To me, this was heartwarming and overwhelming.

 A crowning moment of my month-long odyssey into interfaith discourse came when I proudly recited the azaan, the call to prayer, to a Christian congregation at St. Patrick’s Anglican church.  Eagerly, the children, ranging in age from 3 -12 years, lined up at the altar, not to sing a hymn, but to simulate the Muslim prayer for their parents and loved ones.  Verses of the Koran were read at that service along with passages from the Bible.  The sermon was delivered by me, A Muslim, to an audience that was Anglican.

Yet we were not attempting to meld our faith traditions into a single syncretistic religion, one that would combine elements to make us indistinguishable from each other.  We had a different goal: to understand each other, to reach out, to embrace our common humanity, to come together in peace and goodwill, to be humble in acknowledging the truth and beauty that lies in different ways of worshiping God.

Said one of the congregants, the well-known Rev. David Burns; “We were teaching each other to be human, to be Canadian, for Canadians stand for peace and justice.”

 But here in Canada too, we’re becoming more divided, more fragmented over political and religious issues, though we must continue to strive for peace and harmony.

In my view, the key is in understanding the differences which define us as members of various faiths and political affiliations.  We speak often about the commonalities that bring people of different religious communities together.  But we also need to understand our differences—why they exist, and what purposes they may serve. After all, it is differences rather than commonalities that cause friction.  Only by understanding them can we fully  respect and value the ways in which other faith groups approach and worship God.  

 I experienced universalism at Temple Emanuel and St. Patrick’s Anglican.  It is not our goal to impose our religious views on others.  We’re not trying to convert the rest of the world to our own ways of thinking, to any specific religious ideal.  We only admit that others have the right to hold their own understandings of God, according to their individual temperaments and cultures.

 In my April odyssey I saw and felt a thirst for understanding and tolerance.  These ideals are sorely needed in our embattled world.  But it is up to us, the masses, where movements and ideologies must take root. 

Despite our many differences, we must carry the banner together.