Baha’is participate in World Interfaith Harmony Week

Participants engage in animated discussion at Cornwall event. © Jane Macmillan Toronto, Ontario, 19 February 2013 (CBNS) — Baha’i communities in Canada celebrated World Interfaith Harmony Week — an event designated by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2010 and held annually during the first week of February.

The aim of the week is “to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people” of all faiths.

In Toronto, a local Baha’i choir performed at a dinner “celebrating interfaith culture” where music, poetry, comedy and skits were presented by different faith groups. A few evenings later, a Baha’i joined twelve other speakers from different faiths at the Japanese Cultural Centre to talk about their respective religions and how together they could advance interfaith cooperation. More than 50 intrepid souls braved a snow storm to attend, and paid rapt attention to the three-hour program.

In Surrey, British Columbia, a Baha’i speaker participated with five other panelists from different religions in an event at the City Centre Library. Twice as many people attended as the organizers had anticipated, all from different backgrounds and faiths. “It was a joyous evening,” according to participants, who enjoyed refreshments donated by various religious communities.

In Cornwall on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, the event took place in Knox–St. Paul’s United Church, organized by the Cornwall Interfaith Partnership, and was attended by approximately 90 people from many different backgrounds.

The event began with socializing over a meal prepared and donated by a Partnership member and his family, and was followed by the screening of a video about a “Charter for Compassion” project that aims “to advance the spirit and practice of the Golden Rule.” A workshop then explored three questions to help participants examine and eliminate the roots of inter-religious conflict: 1) Did you learn something in the film that surprised you?; 2) Are there beliefs or practices about other groups that make you feel uncomfortable?; and 3) Do you have any idea where these feelings come from – that is, where do you get information or how are your assumptions formed?

The 10 core members of the Cornwall Interfaith Partnership come from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Bahá’í and unaffiliated backgrounds, and almost all have considerable experience in small-group facilitation; other associated members belong to the Hindu and Sikh communities. In its functioning, the Partnership tries to model the values of unity, respect and community action that it seeks to promote in the wider community.

Reverend Donald Wachenschwanz, the minister of the church hosting the event, said that the gathering was “awesome,” with many participants insisting that such events should be held in Cornwall every three months out of a deep yearning to see the various seemingly antagonistic religious communities come together in harmony and friendship.