Canada a shining example of tolerance
by Candice Malcolm
November 20, 2015
It has been a difficult week around the world. The news has been dominated by bombings, mass murder, terrorism — both foiled plots and successful ones — and a backlash of xenophobia and racism in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Amidst all the horrible images on our television screens and in our newspapers, however, there is still reason for hope and optimism. That reason is Canada.
In a small city in Ontario, an unfortunate incident of intolerance quickly turned into a shining example of what makes our country so great.
Just one day after radical Islamic terrorists attacked Paris, a mosque in Peterborough was torched. The arson attack caused some $80,000 worth of damage and left 1,000 people in the Muslim community without a place to pray. That is, until the Jewish community opened its doors.
When the Beth Israel Synagogue learned about the hate crime, its leaders offered members of the Muslim community a place to pray. The Jewish leaders, alongside a Christian group that also shares this space, worked with their Muslim counterparts to set up a fundraising initiative that has reportedly raised more than $110,000 to help repair the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque.
While Muslims are at war with Christians and Jews in other parts of the world, in Canada these religious communities co-exist. Even more so, they work together.
According to Kenzu Abdella, the president of the targeted mosque and the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, these three religious communities regularly hold open houses, engage in joint inter-faith dinners, and participate in one another’s celebrations. The Muslim community has even prayed at this synagogue before.
This proactive engagement is part of the reason Canada is such a peaceful and cohesive society. Pluralism works in Canada.
Of course, this experience is not unique to the faith communities of Peterborough.
Despite the very strained relationship between Syria and Israel, in Vancouver, a Jewish congregation has taken action to help Syrian refugees. Rabbi Dan Moskovitz asked his congregation at Temple Sholom for donations to help sponsor a Syrian refugee family. Within just a few days, they raised $40,000 — more than enough to support a family of four for an entire year.
In the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, Jews and Muslims are neighbours and friends. In fact, the Jaffari Islamic Centre and its next-door neighbour Temple Har Zion actually share a parking lot.
These two communities share more than just a slab of concrete. They cooperate in a number of shared initiatives, from garage sales, to open houses, shared prayer services, panel discussions, and anti-racism activism.
During Toronto’s annual Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold Program, the two congregations work together with nearly a dozen other religious communities and organizations to help those in need.
This Jaffari Islamic Centre and Temple Har Zion have been living peacefully and sharing land for more than 30 years.
Similarly, in Richmond, B.C., there is a three-kilometer stretch of road dubbed the ‘Highway to Heaven.’ It is home to more than 20 religious schools and institutions built side by side. In this Vancouver suburb, members of the Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian,
Jewish, and Muslim communities gather and pray next to one another and work together to promote open dialogue.
The ‘Highway to Heaven’ has been called the most diverse concentration of faith groups in the world; it offers a living example of how different religious communities and ethnic groups can live in peace and harmony.
Here in Canada, we have an admirable example of religious tolerance and pluralism that should serve as a model for the rest of the world.
This is just one more reason to love Canada.