What’s (y)our pathway to peace?

As we coast into our universal celebrations of peace and dignity and care of our humanity–no matter what our faith–I think most of us are troubled by the violence in our world. Some days it strikes close to home; others it’s oceans away in countries we don’t really know.

But terror(ism) creates fear. And fear creates distrust and suspicion and violence. If you listen to the panderings of American election hopefuls, much of the rhetoric centres around those of the Muslim faith. Some days it makes my blood run cold… man’s inhumanity to man.

And then along comes Ajmal Noushahi, a Muslim of great reach, and my backyard neighbour.

One of 50 Muslim families in Barrie, Ajmal’s great sadness is that some people feel that all Muslims are terrorists, people to be feared. He has been involved in gathering people together to share and understand many faiths. He is an active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama at Barrie (www.ahmadiyya.ca).

While the idea of understanding, accepting, and reaching out to each other was percolating in Ajmal’s mind, I was sitting at the final session of Third Age Barrie, listening to Larry Black explain the historical background of the Crimea, the Ukraine, and Russia’s relationship to both. Of course, the topic of Isis was raised.

The two collided when Ajmal dropped by to intrigue me.

“What if we brought together people of all kinds of faiths? What if we shared food, and customs, and ideas of what all faiths could do to bring peace? What if we adopted the concept of Love for all, Hatred for none?” he asked.

With these questions, he and a core committee have reached out to faith communities; they have planned a remarkable evening of opportunity as the concept of Pathway to Peace becomes the title of a whole evening of sharing.

Friday, December 18–a week before the great Christian Christmas holiday, and in the midst of the Jewish Hannukah, just after the Hindu and Sikh Diwali festivals and half way through the year to Ramadan–is the first annual Interfaith Symposium exploring a Pathway to Peace.

Army Navy Air Force at 7 George St is the location for displays, food, and sharing of thoughts by many faith communities. Ajmal is optimistic that ordinary people–and people of no faith at all–will share this evening where the goal is common… peace.

As we continue to explore the barriers to peace in the world, having an understanding of different faiths, their philosophy and core values, may help to take away the judgement and fear and uncertainty that causes people to just put up their hands and want to close the gates. Not understanding can be the biggest barrier to peace in our own neighbourhoods.

Ajmal and his wife, Fozia, are part of a Muslim community of 180 people, 50 families, who currently share space in a United Church and look forward to the time when they will be able to build their own mosque.

“We believe in community,” he says. “We want the same thing that so many other people want. But some muslims are hijacking our religion. They use the name ‘muslim’ but they are not.”

Ajmal is pleased with the community’s response to the December 18 evening. The following communities have confirmed speakers for the event: Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre; Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Centre; Am Shalom Synagogue; Westside Evangelical Lutheran Church; Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, Angus.

Ajmal has issued invitations to the Baha’i Community, the Hindu Community, the Barrie Shambhala Meditation Group, and the First Nations Community. He remains optimistic that these faith groups will respond to the evening celebrations.

What a great opportunity to set aside curiosity and contempt and to reach out and grasp the hands of members of our community who want the same thing. And what a perfect time of year to do this!

December 18, 5 to 8 pm, Army Navy Air Force Club, 7 George St in Barrie. Questions? 705 795-9581.

“Religions do not create hate. People do.”

Thanks, Ajmal.