Source & Credit: Bradford Times | Canada
By Miriam King
The first World Religions Conference held in Bradford, on March 17, was billed as an evening of "thought-provoking discussion", as scholars from Judaism, Christianity and Islam came together to discuss the topic, "Reconciling Faith and Loyalty to the Country."
The evening was organ-ized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, inviting the community to hear Muslim scholar Mubarak Nazir, Missionary-in- Charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Canada; Terry Weller, Interfaith Christian Minister and publisher of the Interfaith Unity News; and Mark Freiman, former Deputy Attorney General of Ontario, and President of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
"This will be a learning experience for many here," said Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Doug White, who moderated the discussion, and welcomed the capacity crowd to the Bradford Community Centre Auditorium.
All three speakers addressed the issue from not only a different religious standpoint, but personal perspective. Freiman pointed out, "I am not a rabbi, or any sort of religious authority" - although he cited the Torah, in speaking for the CJC and secular Judaism.
Weller brought his understanding as an Interfaith Minister, therapist and counsellor, and Nazir - his understanding as a scholar, a father, and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at.
In the end, there was no disagreement. For all three, there was no conflict between faith and civil society – as long as civil society itself did not attack the faith and dignity of the individual.
Freiman said that being Jewish in Canada "does not involve conflicting identities or conflicting values. We are Canadian and we are Jews." The Jewish faith, he said, requires "precisely this union of civic and religious identities," and the Torah makes "inclusion of minorities and respect for their rights a key legal prescription."
All members of a society are seen as having civic duties and obligations, and "morally and ethically, the people owe a duty to secular authority. ... Civic authority plays an individual role in our daily lives," Freiman said. "There are, however, limits, and those limits come when the demand for loyalty" encompasses a demand for the abandonment of faith. "My freedom ends where it demands the abrogation of your freedom... Loyalty to Canada involves loyalty to the concepts of legal equality, tolerance and respect for others."
For Weller, faith includes a call to "active social action through passive resistance," when the State attacks faith's basic principles, although he said, "These are my beliefs – I do not present them as a credo for others to follow," and acknowledged that with "more than 12,000 different approaches to Christianity," it has been all too easy to reshape the message of Christ. "History is full of examples of how people have shaped Jesus and his words."
Through multiculturalism and his interfaith studies, Weller said that he has come to understand that "underlying the layers of dogma and symbolism were the same spiritual truths... They all spoke of faith, God, humility and peace," and the basic principle: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"In living true to my faith, I am demonstrating my loyalty to my country," he said – though that doesn't mean staying silent if the country moves away from its core values and ethics, which include multiculturalism. "The God that I love, loves diversity," Weller said. "Just look at the world he created."
Mubarak Nazir spoke of the shared traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and of the opportunities offered by Canada, to all who come to its shores, regardless of origin. For the immigrant to Canada, "tomorrow he could be a Member of Parliament, he could be Prime Minister – such unparalleled opportunities."
And when religion conflicts with the demands of country? "Our religion demands that we follow God, follow His Messenger, follow those who are in authority," he said. "Conscientious objection is there, but... are we allowed to have mutiny? No. Riots? No. Suicide bombings? No.... The Prophet says, Love of your country is part of your faith." Those who are offered shelter, justice and welcome by a country, owe that country their love and loyalty, he said.
Nazir told the crowd that he has 5 children, "all different." But when there is a crisis in the family, "we come together like a molten wall of lead – that is what Canada is."
And he praised Canada's multicultural society. "The strength of this country depends on all of us. That is the beauty of Canada – it is the envy of the whole world."
The evening concluded with questions from the audience.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at has held World Religions Conferences and interfaith symposia across Canada, for the past 28 years, "to bring different faiths closer to one another."
Read full article here: Faith, loyalty to country - no conflict, in multicultural Canada