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Marriage and Family

Interreligious Multicultural Festival in Toronto

Toronto, Canada - The Canadian central district of UPF hosted an inter-religious and multi-cultural festival on April 25, 2010 at the Church of Scientology to share words, traditions, and foods. The event was carried out with the joint efforts of UPF-Canada chair Dr. Chae Hee Lee, Dr. Hoossen Auckberaullee, and Rev. Mitch Dixon.

Dr. Richard Morgan led a prayer invoking the blessing of Almighty God. A gathering of almost 70 participants joyously welcomed Rev. Paul M. Tamale, the Master of Ceremonies. They listened to a variety of speakers and performers and ended sampling appetizing foods prepared by the diverse but dedicated participants from different religions and cultures.

The York Police Chief Armand La Barge was the chief guest and spoke on the topic of "Youth and Violence." Having served as a police officer for 37 years, he attested to the fact that there are indeed horrific crimes committed by young people, but despite all of the political rhetoric and the fear that newspaper and television reporters foster, our province and our nation is not on the edge of a youth crime crisis.

Chief Armand stated that "Any analysis of the data will re-enforce the fact that today’s youth should not be made the objects of cynicism, suspicion, and fear, but should be treated with dignity and respect; they should be given the opportunity to learn from their successes and failures. Studies have shown that youth are more likely to be the victims of crime than the cause of it, and the same studies show that the vast majority of those who do offend only offend once. Studies have shown many young offenders have struggled with drug or alcohol dependency, have been subjected to negative peer pressure, and ultimately dropped out of school. Anyone raised in such an environment is in desperate need of society’s understanding, encouragement, and ongoing support – not its fear, its boot camps, or its jails."

Stats Canada reports that the number of all cases heard in Canadian youth courts dropped 20 percent in the past ten years, primarily due to the steady decline in the number of crimes against property. "I believe young people are accountable for the crimes they commit, but it is my belief that accountability does not necessarily have to mean incarceration. Given the fact that by 18 years of age, the average youth will have watched 32,000 murders and 40,000 attempted murders on television, I am surprised there is less violent youth crime," he said.

Chief Armand stressed, "Good parenting in the form of reading and spending quality time with your children during their tender years and giving them the opportunity to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions is paramount to helping children negotiate their difficult and challenging adolescent years. This simple investment of time in our children’s early years has the potential to assist and guide young people in making important healthy lifestyle choices during the most confusing times of their lives."

Author Qamrul A. Khanson was the second main speaker, offering his ideas on the topic of the "Challenges of Interreligious Dialogue." People differ in their ways of thinking, attitude, behavior, and performance. Jews, Christians, and Muslims hold that humans are a spiritual being, created by a monotheistic God, and the generations of human beings exist, knowingly and unknowingly, in continued relationship with God. We may speak different languages, practice different religions, and live by different cultural values. Still, we appreciate the same basic common values of love, respect, affection, and nurturing. The challenge comes when we seek to build bonds among interreligious communities.

He was of the opinion that all the religious people who today support human rights acknowledge humbly that rivalry among the different religious groups helped fuel hatred and deprivation of basic human rights among people in many parts of the world. In the 19th and 20th centuries, people such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Mohandas Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, Nelson Mandela, and Rev. Sun Myung Moon contributed to humanity in their areas of influence. As a result of their contributions, the statutes of many countries and of the United Nations as well has encouraged interreligious dialogue. He reminded people that the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893 was the first attempt to create a global dialogue of faiths.

Khanson stressed eight points needed to meet the challenges of interreligious dialogue: (1) Non-interference in the faith and rituals of the communities engaging in dialogue. (2) Know your own religion first so that you recognize your contribution to the dialogue. (3) Consciousness towards God. (4) Recognition of diversity, respecting the dignity of communities engaging in dialogue. (5) Acknowledgment of the commonality of values in religions, which is a basis for solidarity and combining resources. (6) Human rights for all, which removes pessimism and strengthens the bonds of goodwill. (7) Disregard for extremists who want to maintain animosity among religions. (8) Align with law enforcement agencies, not transgressing the law but abiding by it.

Khanson ended his talk by noting that we we may not be able to heal all the wounds of the centuries in our day, but our efforts should be in the right direction. We can set aside the memories what we did yesterday and learn with a youthful spirit the ways of a peaceful life tomorrow.

The event was further galvanized by the music of harpist Suzanne Mallet, a player for Total Freedom, and the well-known singer Emilio Zarris.

Dr. Hoossen Auckberaullee presented an Ambassador for Peace Award to Rev. Pat Felske, joined by chair Dr. Chae Hee Lee and Chief Armand La Barge. Dr. Hoossen recognized the contribution of Ambassadors for Peace who came from different countries, including  Dr. Chae Hee Lee, Imam Abdul Hai Patel, Dr. Ratnasabapathy Thillairajan, Abdul R. Qureshi, Dr. Golam Dastagir, and Mobeet Qadir Khan.

Rev. Mitch Dixon briefly spoke about "Family as the School of Love and Peace," with visual aids. Rev. Pat Felske of Scientology spoke about the Church of Scientology and presented an audio-visual show to highlight the importance of tolerance and resilience in human relations. Rev. Stoyan Tadin and Mrs. Lilly Tadin also spoke briefly, adding words of wisdom to the festivities and expressing appreciation to the audience.

At the end, Rev. Paul M. Tamale extended his gratitude to Rev. Yvette Shank and Rev. Earl Smith for organizing and hosting the event in the Church of Scientology. After a group photo, people joined to share diverse foods from different cultures and religions.

For the text of Qamrul Khanson's presentation, click here.

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