Toronto Imam addresses Interfaith Dinner

  • May 22, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - For 21 years the Annual Neighbourhood Interfaith Dinner sponsored by mostly wealthy congregations of Rosedale, Moore Park and Forest Hill has meant Christians and Jews breaking bread together. For the 22nd annual dinner May 14 it meant more.

For the first time since the pastors and rabbis of central Toronto began meeting together in living rooms after the Second World War — long before the Neighbourhood Interfaith Group became a formal organization in the 1980s — the annual dinner was addressed by an imam.

Imam Hamid Slimi of the International Muslims Organization of Toronto and chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams told the gathering of more than 400 at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church that faiths learning to live in peace depends on the faithful discovering the authentic spirituality of their own religious tradition. In all religions a part of that genuine religious understanding is their own version of the golden rule, said Slimi.

“It’s in the Old Testament. It’s in the New Testament. It’s in every religion,” Slimi said.

It is too easy for people who take their religion seriously to be distracted by rules, strictures and codes, said the expert in Islamic jurisprudence.

“As if God is like a military general,” said the imam. “He is a caring God. He is a loving God. He forgives the sins that we do not forgive one another.”

The problems that often divide Christians, Jews and Muslims — the Middle East, threats of terrorism — usually have nothing to do with how ordinary Muslims in Toronto live their lives, Slimi said.

“I’m not here to talk about the Middle East problems. That’s one I can’t solve,” he said, and then pointed toward the ceiling. “Only He can solve that one.”

By concentrating on the golden rule Muslims, Christians and Jews will find their religious lives more relevant to the practicalities of their everyday lives.

“The golden rule is about justice,” said Slimi.

Barbara Noble-Holding of the dinner’s organizing committee, a long-time Holy Rosary Catholic Church parishioner, said she has seen relationships blossom across the lines of faith in the years she has been involved in the Neighbourhood Interfaiith Group.

“The wonderful thing is that when we’re together we talk about ‘we.’ It’s always ‘we,’ ” she said.

There are 15 synagogues and Christian churches in the group, which continues to seek new members and new faiths. The Catholic church in the mix is Holy Rosary.

Next year’s speaker will be Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto.

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