A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian walk into a Tibetan Temple….

A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian walk into a Tibetan Temple….

The Jew says, “I brought my guitar.”

The Muslim says, “I brought some dancers.”

The Christian says, “We could all perform together.”

And that’s what they did. That is the punch line. This is no joke, though, and it has a happy ending.

On the last Sunday in April, the Etobicoke Lakeshore Faith Community Leaders welcomed the public to attend the First Inter Faith Festival held in the area. From a spark of an idea two years ago, a project grew to fruition with the help of many volunteers. The doors to the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre on 40 Titan Road opened early in the afternoon so that participants could deepen their understanding of and celebrate the richly diverse faiths in the GTA.

The Inter Faith Festival was for anyone – people of faith and no faith, some searching and others sure, and everyone who grasps that harmonious living is central to the “Golden Rule”: “treat others how you would like to be treated."  Performances representing Jewish, Muslim-Sufi, Buddhist, Christian and Indigenous traditions were at the core of the program.  Information tables and refreshments with a cultural flavour rounded out these unique opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to engage in conversation, learn about each other, and build bridges.

Today, these celebratory meetings have become more and more relevant as world leaders try to instil fear of the unknown into diverse peoples who have until now coexisted harmoniously. Yet, at the base of all understanding is the acceptance of the individual regardless of colour, creed or culture. Children have the innate ability to play with any person they meet. If questioned, they will not point out the differences; instead, they will just talk about the fun they had together. A couple of weeks ago, The Toronto Star featured an article about a black boy and a white boy. One of the boys had gotten a crew cut. The other boy followed suit in order to fool their teacher. Both boys were convinced that, due to the haircut, they would look exactly the same and therefore their teacher would not be able to tell them apart. 

Unfortunately, that ship of ignorant bliss has sailed for most of us, yet generally behaviour is learned and can be undone if good examples are given.  Jesus, during his lifetime, consistently challenged learned behaviour. His life modelled the removal of man-made obstacles. He saw and accepted the person as a child loved by God his own Father.  Jesus gave us the opportunity to follow him in leading the way. 

In a couple of weeks, the next Faith Community Leaders meeting will take place to evaluate this past festival experience.  Inspired by the event, it seems imperative to continue along this path so as to reach even more people. Here is to our ongoing inter-faith growth and celebration!