TIO In Canada - April 2013



by Leslie Mezei

As I gather material for this month’s newsletter, I count 13 events, seven opportunities, five news items, and two resources, and I reflect on the wealth of opportunities we have for getting involved.

Yes, it is great to read about what goes on in the interfaith and interspiritual scene in Canada, the U.S. and worldwide. It is even more satisfying to attend some of the events and network with others there. To that end, please notify us of upcoming events and send us brief reports after attending them, as well as other local news to canada@theinterfaithobserver.org. You can write essays which we would consider for publication. But the most enriching way to get involved is actively volunteering.

Every interfaith council or organization in your area needs volunteers. Whether being part of a working committee or just assisting with programs, your involvement is appreciated, you learn from it, and gain the satisfaction of being an active member of a major growing movement toward a better and kinder world of unity in diversity.

Opportunities which you might want to participate in, and/or pass on to those who you think might be interested:

  • Join a Canada-wide teleconference call on Working with Spirit (in the Events Section)
  • Respond to Shahid Akhtar about his proposed SynaMosque worship space.
  • Volunteer for editorial and reporting help with TIO in Canada.
  • Attend and make a presentation to NAIN Connect 2013 in Toronto this summer. (Proposals by May 1.)
  • Propose a paper to the International Conference on Religions and Social Innovation by May 3.
  • Submit a short or long film or video to the COMMFEST Community Film Festival.
  • Recommend that young people apply for a NAIN Connect 2013 Scholarship (Deadline closing now!)
  • Recommend that young people apply for the Gathering Linking the Wisdom of the First Nation Elders with the Energy of the Youth in Manitoba this summer.

I have been a volunteer for all my adult life, and the last 20 years for the interfaith movement. And I have always received from it far more than I gave!


Standing Up for Religious Freedom Abroad But Not at Home

Ottawa's Policy on Prison Chaplains Discriminates Against Non-Christians

Amira Elghawaby, Toronto Star, March 31, 2013

When it comes to promoting religious freedom, the government could do with a little more fairness right here at home. Less than a month after the Conservative government officially established the Office for Religious Freedom, a multi-faith flock of Canadians is taking the government to court for violating the very freedoms the government pledges the new office will promote abroad.

In a united front that highlights strong interfaith opposition, Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist, Sikh and Jewish prisoners and ex-prisoners are now suing the federal government for cutting part-time chaplains, many of whom ministered to prisoners just like them…

[Read more…]

Ruling ‘Balances Free Speech with the Need to Limit Hate’

Supreme Court Reaffirmed Canadian Balance on Free Speech

Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, March 17, 2013

He was head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and also a member of the UN committee monitoring the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights. In retirement, Max Yalden winters in France, where I reached him. What does he think of the recent Supreme Court ruling that free speech can be, must be, restricted, not overly so but somewhat, in order to curb hate speech?

“It’s a very wise decision. It balances free speech with the need to limit hate. Canada is not the United States, with their absolute emphasis on letting anyone say whatever they want. Nowhere else in the world is that the case. The UN convention on rights upholds free speech but goes on to say that you cannot incite hatred. Canadians value free speech but not to the extent that you may bring women, gays, Jews or Muslims or whoever into hatred and contempt. The court has reflected the way Canadians see the issue.”

But that’s not the way Stephen Harper sees it. Bowing to mostly right-wing attacks on the anti-hate provisions of both the federal and provincial human rights codes, the Conservatives have axed section 13 of the federal code. That provision prohibits hate on grounds of race, religion, ethnic origin, etc. The bill is now before the Senate.” …

[Read more…]

A Muslim Point of View

What Is Chaplaincy?

Imam Habeeb Alli, The Ambition: Journal for Young Muslims, March 2013

Imam Habeeb Alli

Imam Habeeb Alli

Chaplaincy originally is a term coined by Christian pastors serving the wounded in battle centuries ago and nowadays it refers to religious and spiritual caregiver service to any person, whether they are patients in a hospital, inmates incarcerated in a prison, soldiers in an army, employees in a workplace or students attending university. Chaplaincy has grown to become an accredited profession with necessary credentials required to serve those vulnerable within the laws of the nation as well as the respective authentic tradition the chaplain represents. A chaplain may facilitate persons of other religious persuasions arranging to have a representative attend to the needs of the person in need through a mutually respectful and knowledge-based process.

What are some of the tasks the Muslim Chaplains Perform?

Chaplains perform the accreditation of Islamic teachings through correct literature and classes, ensuring halal meals are provided, provide guidance for Iftar and Sohoor in Ramadan, attest to the new Muslims shahadah [declaration of belief], lead the prayers of Juma and Eid, provide all necessary items for worship and education, ensure radicalized thoughts are counteracted, provide service to all denominations of Islam and other faiths as required, answer questions on Islam to new Muslims, provide support for parole, attend meetings and conferences about enhancing Chaplaincy in the diversity paradigm and ensure their presence is felt and a secure environment is maintained at all times…

[Read more...]

Emphasis on Social Justice Issues

Toronto Area Interfaith Council (TAIC) Annual Meeting

The Toronto Area Interfaith Council’s (TAIC) annual members’ meeting confirmed a focus on the social justice issues of poverty and violence, and will seek opportunities to cooperate with appropriate organizations. In addition to the usual organizational agenda, the meeting was enlivened with a guest speaker, reflections from two faith representatives, and a final go-around which gave voice to everyone there. TAIC is the sponsor of the August 11-14 North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) Conference this year.

The Executive is composed of: Zul Kassamali, President, Muslim, Fr. Damian MacPherson, Past President, Roman Catholic, Liz Chappel, Vice President, Baha’i, Bob White, Secretary, Roman Catholic, Sam Vesuna, Treasurer, Zoroastrian, John Joseph Mastandrea, Social Convenor, United Church, and Earl Smith, Liaison to NAIN Connect, Scientology.

Michael Skaljin, Executive Director, of the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) gave a talk about “Enhancing the Quality of Life of the Poor, the Role of Faith Communities.”

He described five common religious attitudes to poverty:

  • A noble spiritual path
  • Responsibility for our own changed circumstances
  • Test or challenge to our faith
  • Generosity
  • Need to change the social order, eradicate poverty

It is the last that we need to address. Dialogue toward action. Among the major problems in our affluent society are the large numbers of working poor, the low social assistance, which is cut back if one works at all, and the lack of sufficient housing for those with low income.

ISARC is a provincial network of faith groups working together for greater social justice. It was born out of the hope that together a coalition of faith groups could contribute to new public policies based upon greater justice and dignity for Ontarians marginalized by poverty

Ontario Multifaith Council (OMC) Multifaith Library Continues Operations

Although the Ontario Multifaith Council’s government funding has ended, OMC will coninue to operate in a reduced capacity at a new location: 3570 Victoria Park Avenue, Suite # 207, North York, Ontario. Dr. Mohamed Taher, 1-888-837-0923, has been rehired to continue with his work with the Multifaith Information Services. Click here for the extensive Multifaith Library.



Video: Believing in One Truth in a Pluralistic Society, Professor Tariq Ramadan

Religious Life Lecture Series, 2012-2013 University of Western Ontario

Sponsored by the Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning

Professor Tariq RamadanWhether we are Christian or Buddhist, Jewish or Muslim, secularist or believer, Tariq Ramadan suggests that all traditions of thought spring from the same place, and guides us to see past what divides us and discover the beauty of what we have in common. In his lecture Professor Ramadan outlines the approach to pluralism presented in his book The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, a searching analysis of the challenges involved in creating pluralist societies and an insightful assessment of areas of common ground, which have the potential to bring out the best in one another and become a force for good within the world.

Professor Tariq Ramadan holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars. Through his writings and lectures he has contributed substantially to the debate on contemporary Islamic issues, Islamic revival in the world and Muslims in the West. He is active ... lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, Islamic law and jurisprudence, applied ethics, philosophy, social justice, economics, politics, interfaith and intracommunity dialogue.”

Poster From Surrey Interfaith Newsletter, B.C.

Photographed by Tim Shields