Marriage and Family


July 2020
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Marriage and Family

Inter-Religious Family Festival in Toronto

As envisaged earlier by UPF-Canada's Central District, the much awaited Inter-Religious Family Festival was celebrated on March 15 with full fervor and zest, which has sown the seeds of unified action to establish peace within and around. People of different ethnic origins and religious groups gathered to share their common values to contribute towards peaceful co-existence and peace among them. The gathering looked like a unified family under one God. Catholics, Protestants, Assyrians, Muslims, Sikhs, and others could be seen intermingling and sharing their appreciation of each other.

The audience watched videos as well as listened to inspiring speeches by different religious scholars representing the mosaic of religions in UPF family. Of course, nothing is complete unless one shares the diversity of food which all religious and cultural flavors have brought to feast with.

With such enthusiasm, it was natural for singer Jeremiah Sparks to take the opportunity to entertain the guests with his beautiful songs. Every important moment was documented, with hopes that the photos would inspire similar festivals in other parts of Canada.

Dr. Hoossen Auckbaraullee, Chairman of the Central District of UPF-Canada, and Rev. Paul Tamale Musemwa were at the door to welcome all the guests especially the guest of honor Armand P. La Barge, the Chief of York Regional Police, who came with his staff sergeant Ricky S. Veerappan. Rev. Paul, a well-known moderator of such events within UPF, welcomed all the guests, who exceeded the room's limited capacity of 150 people.

When the guests got formally seated, Rev. Yvette Shank, President of the host group, the Church of Scientology, sang the National Anthem of Canada joined by the audience. She described peacebuilding efforts of the various groups represented. Rev. Earl Smith of the Church of Scientology offered an invocation focusing on the preservation of human rights, freedom of belief, freedom of life, freedom of religious practices and respect of dignity to every human born upon this earth.

Dr. Auckbaraullee welcomed the guests. He spoke in favor of a permanent peace in the Middle East, where blood letting continues without a firm commitment to peace. He described UPF's work to bring peace between the people of Israel and Palestine and hoped that this festival will stimulate a number of new initiatives in diverse fields and diverse communities which will further the work of building a culture of service and peace in Canada and around the world.

Rev. Ariel Dumaran was called to the podium to speak on peace from the Christian perspective. He mentioned that peace is not opposite to violence, but an answer to violence. He talked about the importance of family and moral values for bringing peace in society.

Professor Dr Golam Dastagir, a Visiting Research Scholar on World Religions at the University of Toronto, mentioned that police are not foes but friends of people and they can play important roles in maintaining peace in society. He gave a brief overview of how Islam reconciles divergent faiths and encourages people to live with others in harmony and in a pluralistic society. Dr. Golam gave examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encouraging Muslims to think positively about others and assume that others have good intentions, because a positive outlook about others bring individuals inner peace.

Mr. Willie Nabus, a respected Filipino scholar, spoke on "Philippines for Peace." He gave a brief sketch of the history and cultures of the Philippines, mentioning that the Filipinos are God-fearing people; 80 percent are Christians, with the remainder being Muslims or from other religious groups. He introduced a cultural troupe from his country to entertain the audience. Seven dancers performed a popular dance, "Filipino Kayumangi."

Rev. Mitch Dixon, Co-Director of the Central District Chapter of UPF-Canada, said, "The purpose of religion is to create a peaceful environment, but self-centeredness is the basis of conflict." He referred to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, quoting from the Holy Scriptures to corroborate his points that conflict lies within the human mind and that common truths can be found in the holy books.

The audience could not hold back their appreciation of Sandra, a 17-year girl who rendered a beautiful song, "Grace will lead us home." A total of sixteen people were accorded Ambassador for Peace awards, including Mr. La Barge, Mr. Veerappan, and Sheikh Abdul Hai Patel, the York Region Police Chaplain. Mr. La Barge said in response that he felt humbled and honored to be appointed an Ambassador for Peace.

At the end, humorous Rev. Stoyan Tadin gave an insightful speech about the need to go beyond our boundaries to make peace. He said, "Each of us needs to see ourselves and each other as people with treasures to share. Everyone has some treasures, and we are seeking people who have the true treasures required for maintaining peace in society. This is the significance of the Ambassador for Peace designation."

Beginning with the musical welcome and ending with musical pleasure were the festive norms of the day. After three and half hours of inspiring speeches, videos, and sharing, it was time to finally enjoy the food which every participant brought to share with others. The festival ended with a note of peace and expression of hopes that every human can flourish to his or her full capability.

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