How to Meet New Neighbours

In response to the recent anti Muslim sentiment that Toronto and the surrounding areas have experienced a small grass roots group broke out and decided to host a Unity Event at a west end Toronto Mosque. Thankfully in most instances of hatred and animosity, the community at large has responded in a positive way. The only Mosque in Peterborough was a victim of arson. Within 24 hours $80 000 was raised in a crowd funding campaign to help rebuild the Mosque and a local Synagogue has offered to share premises until the renovations are complete.

The event held on Saturday 5 December 2015 was entitled My Community is United: Standing Together with our Neighbours . The event was directly organized in response to the recent outbreaks of hatred towards the Toronto Muslim Community. Key organizers were Pastor Joe Abbey Colborne of Faith in the City, Rabbi Michael Satz of Holy Blossom Temple & Imam Shabir Ally of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre. The speakers consisted of community leaders, politicians and faith leaders representing various faith communities. There was a crowd of about 200 people attending.

Sharing Experiences

One speaker a young women, a community worker spoke of her experience wearing her hijab and how she feels very self conscious. She’s altered her lifestyle because of the level on animosity she feels. She avoids going out at night. Imam Shabir spoke of how the Toronto Muslim community needs to be more vocal and speak out more, as do all communities. He spoke of how this gathering was a collection of moderate people from different faith groups and our response is often moderate but he feels that must be changed; we should be more vocal and voice our concern over anti Muslim sentiments. We must be louder in voice and action to combat Islamaphobia and generally speak up when we feel there is injustice in the world.

Interfaith Gathering

There were 9 speakers and in between there was an intermission where guests were encouraged to mingle, eat food and generally get to know your neighbour. There were few chairs to encourage participants to move about and chat. All were welcome, the only request was to take off your shoes at the door. Several members of the press were present interviewing speakers. “Any type of anti-Muslim sentiment, any type of hate crime, any type of discrimmination is completely unacceptable. Not only in this community, but in all communities right across Canada.” Davenport MP Julie Dzerowicz stated in her speech.

How You can Make a Difference

  • attend a unity event in your neighbourhood or host a unity event
  • sign unity statement
  • use Social Media to promote unity & tolerance
  • visit a Mosque, Church, Synagogue or Temple
  • knit warm scarfs and toques for Syrian Refugees
  • volunteer to help acclimatize refugees
  • smile when you see someone a little different than yourself

A statement of unity was printed out on a large board. It was recently written by Toronto City Council. Councillor Mike Layton said it was written in about 22 hours; fast for anything done by Toronto council! Attendees were encouraged to sign the unity statement. The statement decrees that no one should feel afraid to practice their faith, be who they are or be persecuted because of it. The statement is available on line, for signing. It was powerful to be there to sign with women, children and men all representing various faith communities. The leaders declared it to be the first of many interfaith iniatives to bring peace and speak out to say that hate is simply never OK; fear of the other will not win out. We are stronger together than apart. As the evening ended one woman was overheard to say, “now this is the world, I want to live in.”

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