Interfaith Desk News - February 2013

First World Interfaith Harmony Week held in Toronto (Feb. 7)

Sponsored by the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, this Interfaith Harmony event had a theme "Looking for ways to work together". It was held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. As it was at the start of a major snow storm, the turnout out was smaller than expected but still about 40 attendees braved the storm, including the 9 invited interfaith guest speakers (see Interfaith Program).

Interfaith HarmonyModerator Sid Ikeda starting the evening with the panel including 9 invited interfaith guest speakers with the Interfaith Harmony Steering Committee chair John Voorpostel at very right
Interfaith HarmonyWith all interfaith speakers and the organizers with Mr. Zul Kassamali, President of the Toronto Area Interfaith Council at the right

Finding faith's place in the City of Toronto (Jan. 24)

Faith leaders and concerned citizens replaced politicians in city council chambers to hash out how faith communities can increase their participation in city building in the "Faith in the City" symposium. Read more of Register's Jan. 30th article. Paul McKenna of the SFM Interfaith Department received an award for his teaching and work in the interfaith community.

McKenna awardPaul McKenna after receiving 'Certificate of Recognition' from Councillor Joe Mihevc (to Paul's right) of the 'Faith in the City' Symposium Steering Committee at City of Toronto on Jan. 24, 2013. To Paul's left is his SFM Interfaith colleague, Sr. Lucy Thorson
McKenna_award'Certificate of Recognition' presented to Paul McKenna in recognition of creating the 'Golden Rule poster'

Rotating Golden Rule Texts in 13 Religions (Slide Series)

This slide series program is an excellent educational resource for youth and adult audiences and can be used in classrooms, workshops, retreats and prayer/meditation experiences. As each of 13 Golden Rule texts rotates before the eyes of the viewers, the audience is provided with a reflective, informative and meditative experience. Facilitator may wish to choose some music to accompany the slides. The slides rotate by themselves and you can set your own rotation speed (3-15 sec). To view this, click here

American scholar receives Golden Rule Ambassador Award

On November 19, Rev. Dr. Harry Gensler S.J. was honored with the Golden Rule Ambassador Award, presented by the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Department (Toronto) and Interfaith Unity Ministries (Toronto).

Left to right:  Dr. John Day (Academic Vice President), Dr. Harry Gensler S. J.,  Paul McKenna (Scarboro Missions) Left to right: Dr. John Day (Academic Vice President), Dr. Harry Gensler S. J., Paul McKenna (Scarboro Missions)

Gensler is one of the top three Golden Rule scholars in the world. A professor of philosophy at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio (USA), he is a world-class teacher and a scholar who has been conscientiously practicing and writing on the Golden Rule for over forty years. In his soon-to-be-published book, The Golden Rule and Ethics (Routledge, March 2013), Gensler builds on his original formal-logical approach by giving added theological depth and the fruit of an entire sabbatical year of further study. Of the various Golden Rule scholars in the world, he is the foremost in logical clarity.

The Golden Rule Ambassador Award was initiated by Mussie Hailu, a dynamic Ethiopian Golden Rule and interfaith activist. The award recognizes individuals or organizations who have made a significant contribution to community service or Golden Rule activity.

The award was presented to Dr. Gensler at John Carroll University when Paul McKenna of Scarboro Missions visited the university to join Gensler in presenting some Golden Rule seminars to students and faculty.

Dr. Jeffrey Wattles gives Golden Rule Lecture at Scarboro Missions - Oct. 13, 2012

In October 2012, Dr. Jeffrey Wattles, one of the top Golden Rule scholars in the world, lectured at Scarboro Missions. A professor of philosopher at Kent State University in Ohio (USA), Wattles has published what many consider to be the best book on the Golden Rule in the English language -- "The Golden Rule" (Oxford University Press). Read the full text of his lecture. Two pictures below but many more in the Photo Gallery (Left menu).

Dr. Wattles' lectureDr. Jeffrey Wattles give lecture on the Golden Rule at Scarboro Missions
Dr. Wattles' lectureDr. Wattles receiving the Golden Rule Ambassador Award from Paul McKenna (left) and Leslie Mezei, founder of the Interfaith Unity Missions

Engaging the World: Justice Issues through a Multi-Faith Lens

Once again this year, Scarboro Mission’s Interfaith Department, the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto (CJDT), and the Multi-faith Centre at the University of Toronto collaborated in the now annual “Engaging the World” series. This series wonderfully combined the disciplines of social justice and interfaith dialogue.

The series ran for six consecutive weeks at Hart House in the middle of the University of Toronto’s Saint George Campus.

The building is very central and most appropriate for a conversation about the constants (in context) of religion, as it is itself done in Gothic-Revival style. A special thanks to Richard Chamberlain of the U of T Multi-Faith Centre for making this venue open to us.

The first week’s session (September 27th, 2012) was entitled: Ecology-Issues from diverse faith perspectives. Here Professor Stephen Scharper set the tone for the whole session of Engaging the World with the statement that “85% of the world’s population believes in some form of transcendence”. That is definitely a good part of the world engaged. Michel Lagace from the U of T’s Environmental Resource Network also spoke of ways U of T is sharing new ways to see ecology as transcendent.

The second week’s session (October 4th, 2012) was entitled: Refugees-Challenges to our Faith Traditions. Here Mary Jo Leddy, founder of Romero House, led our discussion with a true story. She spoke of her experience, living with refugees and watching the news with them. The media treats them as people coming to use and abuse the system. She said – being in the same room as they are and hearing the way the media is speaking, you can see them shrinking down into the sofa. Mary Jo said that this reification of people is our greatest obstacle. Until we let people be people and not turn them into things or objects of our investigations, we are not using eyes of faith, eyes that see their transcendence.

The third week’s session (October 11th, 2012) was entitled: Women-Gender Justice and Patriarchy. Here two very different women started our discussion. First was Samira Kanji, director of the Noor Cultural Centre. Her opening to the talk was to show that gender equality is a work in progress. In Canada, in 1955 for example, restrictions on married women in the federal public service were removed. She went on to point out a number of other advances in Canadian legislation concerning the issues of sexual assault and employment.

The second speaker Rev. Kailly Karla described herself as an ordained Christian minister. She notes with amazement how even though Scripture was written by men, in a male dominated culture, there are some examples of woman being listened to.

The fourth week’s session (October 18th, 2012) was entitled: Help or Hindrance-How do sacred texts speak to current social justice issues? Here we were floored by not one but two passionate speakers, (from left to right) Jessica Radin , a PhD student in Jewish textual studies, and Susan Harrison, a PhD student in Christian textual studies, to the far right is Tamim, our facilitator for each session. Stories in the Hebrew texts present examples of how to be just and “justice in Judaism is always social”. Justice is a response to the ‘other’ therefore admitting or acknowledging the existence of the ‘other’. This is why the sin of idolatry is so feared in the Hebrew Scriptures. If you worship an idol, you will become an idol:

But their idols are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but they cannot smell;
they have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but they cannot walk;
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

If this happens, you will never be able to acknowledge the ‘other’, you will cut yourself off from society. Jessica ended by reminding us that the Hebrew Scriptures are not just about engaging the world but about repairing the world. The world starts close to home and moves out to the stranger.

Susan did her reading of the Christian Scriptures through the lenses of “wholeness making”. She hears the Hebrew Shalom as “thick peace” or a multi-layered and faceted peace.

The fifth week’s session (October 25th, 2012) was entitled: Towards an Ethical Economy. The two speakers were Rabbi Baruch Frydmann Kohl (right) of the Beth Tzedec Congregation and Michael Skaljin (left), director of the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition.

We live in this world so we cannot blame others or systems for the wrong that is in it. “Each person needs an ultimate value standard” said Rabbi Kohl. How do you do this and not demonize the ‘other’ who has a different value standard? Genesis tells us that humans are the likeness and image of God. It also says that property has value and is to be valued. This first book of the Hebrew Scriptures tells us that we are partners with God. Making money is also value. Poverty is not in any way romanticized for poverty can break the human spirit. Therefore, there is a middle way called: sharing. Poverty, without going into the moral questions around it; poverty depletes the morale of a society. Recent times have moved western society from a trust economy to a risk economy. Who will banks support? Who will governments support? When there is no trust, there is collapse. The moral and the market are related intimately.

The sixth week’s session and the final one (November 1st, 2012) was entitled: Peace Building. This final session was to start off Holocaust Awareness week for U of T. Our guest was Rabbi Yossi Sapirman (right) of the Beth Torah Congregation. (To the left is Richard Chamberlain, head of the U of T Multi-Faith Centre and a close collaborator with Sister Lucy Thorson, nds and Fr. Terry Gallagher, sfm for this event). Rabbi Sapirman started us off by stating that we need to realize that we are “not at the apex of societal values, rather at the beginning”. (This resounded with what Samira Kanji mentioned about women’s rights even in Canada). Each generation’s experience of the world is unique. I cannot perceive the world the way my parents did. This uniqueness is a duty not a right. To be different is not an entitlement but an obligation towards not flattening out the world.

The importance of keeping memory alive (re-membering) was emphasized; otherwise, the memories of the past are lost. A holocaust survivor told us that the bullying she endured from children her age, still hurt so many decades later. Unfortunately the tyranny of the clock sometimes keeps us from learning anything of long lasting value. Perhaps the lesson to be learned today is from the rise of frantic orthodoxy or fundamentalism. This is, in Rabbi Sapirman’s words,: “doubt not faith”.

This Article was drawn up by SHAWN DALEY, sfm

Hebrew Golden Rule Poster now available free online

Scarboro Missions is pleased to announce the publication of a Hebrew language poster featuring texts of the Golden Rule in 13 religions. Download the poster here.

How do Christians understand other religions?

In an excellent paper entitled, Thinking Theologically about Other Religions: Christian Theologies of Religions, American theologian, David R. Brockman, does two things. He, first of all, surveys Church history to enlighten us as to how Christians have addressed the issue of other religions in the past; and, second, he provides a wonderful outline of how modern Christian theologians are wrestling with this challenging question. To view or dowload this paper, click here.

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