Baha’is help organize Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast

More than 140 people gathered at the Parliamentary Restaurant for the Second Interfaith National Breakfast on Parliament Hill on 23 November, 2010. The breakfast was sponsored by the All-Party Interfaith Friendship Group, and hosted by Member of Parliament David Sweet and Rabbi Reuven Bulka.

The breakfast is an initiative of the All-Party Interfaith Friendship Group. It was established to acquaint Members of Parliament with information about the diverse Faiths represented in their constituencies. It also highlights the contribution that religions can make to public discussion, and demonstrates that the different religions can together undertake activities that promote harmony and mutual understanding. The breakfast also helps to build enduring relationships between representatives of Canada’s diverse religious communities and Parliamentarians and members of the Diplomatic corps.

Member of Parliament David Sweet welcomed people, his gracious remarks setting a warm atmosphere for the breakfast. A number of diplomats from different countries and Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators, from each of the different parties, joined the many representatives from Canada’s Christian denominations, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and the United Church, as well as Baha’i, Buddhist, Falun Gong, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh representatives.

Susanne E. Tamás, Director of the Office of Governmental Relations of the Baha’i Community of Canada and nine other Baha’is attended the breakfast with seating arranged to maximize the diversity of encounters and conversations among the faith representatives and public officials.

The theme of the breakfast was The Golden Rule: Common for all Faiths. Each table had copies of table-size posters that included extracts from the Scriptures of World Faiths in English and French. Guests were invited to discuss the form that the Golden Rule takes in their own Faith tradition as well as explore the application of the Golden Rule in daily life or in the issues current in society.

Reverend Lillian Roberts of the United Church and Father Alex Michalopulos of the Greek Orthodox Church read the Golden Rules for each of the religions represented.

The keynote speech was given by Senator Salma Ataullahjan who contrasted Canada’s inclusive and tolerant position of allowing all people to follow the religion of their own choice with those countries where people are persecuted for their religious beliefs. She noted that all religions are “the essence of peace and love and that everyone should stand together against evil in whatever guise it wears”. The Senator explained that throughout her life, she had been influenced by numerous people of different religious beliefs, and had recognized that they had a valuable contribution to her growth as a human being. Their different religious beliefs were not an obstacle to recognizing the value of the gifts that they had shared with her.

Senator Ataullahjan went on to say that “all religions teach us to be a better person. All religions promote peace. Islam teaches respect for all religions and humankind. One of the Prophet Muhammad’s most quoted sayings is, “none of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself”. Before we can truly love God, we must learn to love one another. My religion teaches me to be compassionate, strong, calm, and accept God’s will. It teaches me to be inclusive.”

Co-Chair Rabbi Reuven Bulka spoke about the Community Builder’s award. It was instituted for politicians to encourage and award those citizens in their constituency who are actively helping their community to develop.

As the morning came to a conclusion, the original members of the All-Party Interfaith Friendship Group were asked to stand and be recognized by David Sweet. Among them were former Members of Parliament David Kilgour, Jack Murta, Susanne Tamás and Nathalie Thirlwall of the Baha’i Community, Muslim representative Abdul Rashid and Jain representative Jag Humar.

The morning ended with a round of thanks to all those who assisted in the organization of the breakfast with special thanks extended to Ottawa Baha'i, Nathalie Thirlwall. “The interfaith breakfast could not have occurred without her efforts,” said the Chair. The success of the event seems to guarantee it will become an annual event.

Susanne Tamás commented after the successful gathering, “The Multifaith Breakfast is one among a number of activities in which members of the Baha’i community are participating in an effort to strengthen interfaith cooperation and understanding, contributing a spiritual perspective to public discourse.”

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