Rabbi, Muslim and Catholic see other faiths' similarities
A unique inter-faith meeting heard a Christian and Muslim applaud a Rabbi's remark that "we probably have a lot more in common than we do differences and that the ones we do have are not insurmountable. We get in trouble when we say 'I am right, you are wrong,'"
Last Saturday was a day of discovery for about 150 area residents who attended a workshop, "Vital Voices, Faiths in Conversation" sponsored by the Joint Outreach Committee of St. John's Mono and St. Mark's Anglican Churches, a committee made up of representatives from the two nearby churches that happen to be in two dioceses, Niagara and Toronto.
The event at St. John's, featured three speakers of different faiths - a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim. Taking part in the all-day workshop were Rhaeel Raza, representing the Muslims, Ted Schmidt, a Roman Catholic representing the Christians and Rabbi Jordon D. Cohen.
Raheel Raza is an awardwinning journalist, public speaker, poet, author, playwright and interfaith advocate. She is a campaigner for human rights and a leader among women. Raheel actively promotes interfaith relations in print, radio and television to reveal and debate Muslim issues.
Ted Schmidt was an award-winning writer for the Catholic New Times newspaper, where he wrote a regular column for 20 years and edited the paper from 2001 to 2006. He spent a lifetime in teaching and has appeared on many TV shows as well as being a regular commentator on Vision Television.
Rabbi Cohen is the senior rabbi at a synagogue in Hamilton and director of The Orchard, an innovative Multi-faith Spirituality Centre in Peterborough. He has worked and studied in Canada, Israel and the United States and served for five years as Rabbi of North Shore Temple Emmanuel in Sydney, Australia.
The program saw presentations by each speaker, a time of conversation among the speakers, and plenty of time for the attendees to ask questions.
Each speaker spoke about their personal background and their involvement with their particular faith, and others, and talked about how that faith has influenced their lives and how things have changed within their own religion over the years.
But a consistent theme, "I have hope," "I am full of hope," came from each of the speakers.
Following a lunch break the three speakers sat and chatted about issues affecting us all, a discussion that allowed each of the participants to express their opinion, but with no anger or volatile disagreement.
Another point of agreement was that solutions to the world's problems have to be settled by spirituality, not by politics.
Ms Raza emphasized that radical Muslims are worshipping their own interpretation of religion, not God, and that suicide bombings are not justified by the Koran. She also pointed out that Jesus is mentioned more times in the Koran than Muhammed.
Other points of agreement included: the fact that each speaker felt that if they speak out about injustices (to their own religion or people) then they must speak out for everyone; that there are many paths to the same God; we are all human beings; and we are all part of creation.
The audience's questions to the participants ranged from "What are the similarities in each of the traditions?"; "what are the concerns of each speaker?"; "what are their perceptions of humanity?"; "cultural greetings" and "relationships to Jesus."
At the beginning of the day, Rev. Penny Lewis said the desire of the joint committee was to have a "social justice event which would address some of the fears and concerns that affect the changing community." She said she found out about the presentation these three people do through a relative who had taken part in a session in Peterborough.
"Having heard the tape of the day, I knew that this was what we were looking for."
Those involved in the day found that people of different religions can sit and discuss issues and have that discussion with grace, good humour and acceptance of the differences. The day certainly accomplished that and should provide much follow up discussion for church groups in the area.