At Islamic Relief Canada, we keep things clear about where we find the inspiration to do humanitarian work — it’s right there in our name. We are a faith-inspired organization, one of the largest Muslim NGOs in Canada and in the world. The five core values which guide our work are excellence, sincerity, social justice, mercy and custodianship, all of them derived from the rich Islamic tradition.
But we recognize that ours is not the only tradition which emphasizes these values, nor is it the only one that has inspired Canadians to help those in need of support. And it is important to us that we work together with these different faith groups on our shared goal of serving humanity. From our office in Burlington to the more than 40 countries in which we have projects, we work with — and for — people of all backgrounds.
This is why we believe World Interfaith Harmony Week, an annual UN observance in February which was established in 2007, is so important, because it reminds us of the many values and goals that we share.
Over the past year, we have taken initiative to get involved in more interfaith programs, as well as being active in forums such as Mississauga Faith Leaders, Canadian Interfaith Conversation, and the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee (NMCLC).
One of the most enjoyable interfaith programs we joined in 2018 was an interfaith tour in downtown Toronto. On a beautiful summer evening, members of different faiths came together to visit one of the city’s oldest synagogues, a Catholic church, a Tibetan Buddhist temple and a mosque. The many conversations that were shared in the course of walking from one place of worship was a very refreshing reminder of just how much we have in common.
During Ramadan, for the second year in a row, Islamic Relief Canada co-organized an iftar event in Toronto’s City Hall which was attended by Mayor John Tory, city councillors, Muslim community leaders and Torontonians of all backgrounds and walks of life. Later in the year we were privileged to do our part to welcome interfaith leaders from around the world to Toronto through our sponsorship of the 2018 Parliament of World Religions.
In the aftermath of the tragic van attack in Toronto in April, we partnered with Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, a collective of Muslim and Jewish women, to raise over $12,000 in funds to support those who were affected.
In November, after the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, we took part in the initiative to form rings of peace around synagogues in the Toronto area and to express our solidarity with the Jewish community. I personally attended Temple Har Zion and conveyed to a leader of the congregation that Islamic Relief Canada is committed to dismantling ignorance and hate in Canada and in all of our work internationally, regardless of the background of those affected.
In 2019, we at Islamic Relief Canada are eager to deepen our interfaith connections even more. We recognize how privileged we are to live in such a beautifully diverse society — and that this comes with a responsibility to work together to create a better world for everyone.