Muslim, Jewish and Catholic young people walked together through Toronto and visited places of worship to learn about each others’ faiths and bond in their common love for God. Photo by Trinity Regular

Young people in search of a common love for God

By  Trinity Regular, Youth Speak News
  • November 11, 2016

Combine a little walk, a little prayer, three churches and group of young people from a variety of faiths, and you have the makings of a pretty interesting Sunday afternoon in downtown Toronto.

It’s called a Hike and Prayer event, and on Nov. 6 it lived up to its promise for the group of young adults (age 18-35), with the added bonus of good weather and nice Toronto downtown scenery.

“We have people from all parts of the world. As a nation, it only makes sense if we start to get involved in interfaith conversation,” said Azfar Ali Rizvi, one of the participants for the Faith Connections event. “No matter how we look at it, a huge part of us has a limit of faith to us. The more we talk about it, the more we understand each other.”

Along the journey through city streets, participants had the opportunity to experience three different places of worship — a traditional egalitarian synagogue (The First Narayever Congregation), a Roman Catholic church (St. Patrick’s) and a mosque (Masjid Toronto) — while discussing the history of each one and what it means to be of the religion.

As the crowd of eager participants circled around the entrance of the synagogue, Vivian Kwok and Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt, the two organizers, welcomed the group with the traditional Jewish cap, called ‘kippah’. The Star of David lined the walls, beautiful flowers on the rails and detailed architecture around the area where the scrolls had been placed.

Rabbi Ed Elkin talked about the history of the First Narayever Congregation while showcasing the different Hebrew books used during services. This special community combines traditional liturgy with an egalitarian spirit, believing in the principle that all people are equal.

The next stop on the journey was St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which featured beautiful detailing of stain-glassed windows and to intricate architecture of the altar.

Fr. Santo Arrigo, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, shared with them the history, faith and an overview of the different sacraments a Catholic receives in life.

“It is important that people from all walks of life, ages and so forth learn what it means to confess their sins, to share when they’ve made a mistake, and to be restored in union in their life with God.” said Arrigo.

The last stop was Masjid Toronto, a mosque in the downtown core which had previously been a bank, blending in nicely with the surrounding financial buildings. Despite the constant noise and livelihood of downtown, the Masjid has immersed itself in complete peace and tranquility.

Imam Wael Shehab gave the group an introduction to Islam, explaining the history and beliefs of the Muslim community. Islam is a universal religion, he said, that represents tolerance and equality for all.

The experience of Hike and Prayer will hopefully leave the participants with a greater understanding of other faiths, said Kwok, coordinator of the Muslim-Catholic Student Dialogue at the Office of Ecumenism and Interfaith at the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“In this age and time that we live in, there is a lot of conflict,” said Kwok. “Many people misunderstand the meaning of certain religions and we believe it is important to find a way to help others see the real meaning.

“We need to make sure we reduce these misunderstandings we may have and work together towards a common goal of peace, unity, and diversity.”

(Regular, 16, is a Grade 11 student at St. Joseph College Secondary School in Toronto.)

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