WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Rev. Larry Wright, Rabbi David Kunin and Dr. Muzaffar Siddiqui share in a common prayer.
EDMONTON – Representatives of the three faiths that trace their roots to Abraham came together at City Hall Dec. 11 as part of their local effort to foster interfaith harmony and cooperation.
Masood Peracha, co-chair of the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony, said the organization was established five years ago to build a greater understanding among all faiths.
They wanted to ensure that the same hatred and religious indifference seen in the rest of the world would not prevail in Edmonton too, Peracha said.
"It's important for us to gather together, to learn together, understand each other, and respect each other because by learning we can dispel fear," said Rabbi David Kunin, president of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre.
"Once we learn that we have a lot more in common, we have many more reasons to celebrate together than to hate each other," Kunin said.
More than half of humanity professes to be followers of the Abrahamic faiths, and the three faiths have many similarities in their respective holy texts.
Another commonality among those people of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths is their important celebrations in November and December.
The tri-faith celebration allowed representatives from those faith groups to elaborate on their particular celebrations. Every presentation concluded with an entertainment portion.
Representing the Muslims was Dr. Muzaffar Siddiqui. He spoke on the importance of the Hajj and Eid Al-Adha.
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every Muslim. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, as well as their submission to Allah.
Eid Al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, is an important religious celebration for Muslims to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God.
Kunin spoke on behalf of Edmonton's Jewish community. He detailed the significance of Hanukkah, celebrated this year starting at sunset Dec. 20 and concluding at sunset Dec. 28.
"Hanukkah is a holiday that reminds us of the difficulty of keeping one's traditions when the majority doesn't want you to keep your traditions," said Kunin.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem about 2,300 years ago.
The Temple was overtaken and being used for the worship of Jupiter, and the Jewish people fought to get it back and rededicate it to the worship of God.
The story of Hanukkah is alluded to in 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. The Bible also refers to Jesus being at the Jerusalem Temple during "the feast of the dedication and it was winter" in John 10.22.
"Hanukkah reminds me of the fact that we have an obligation to remember and preserve our traditions, and an obligation to share our traditions so that we can create a richer society," said Kunin.
Representing Christians at the event was the Rev. Larry Wright, who outlined the Advent journey leading up to Christmas.
"We're hearing in all of the presentations about light. Light is a symbol of the presence of the divine, the presence of God. So on our Advent wreath, we light a candle for each of the Sundays prior to Christmas," said Wright.
"Every candle focuses on a particular aspect of Christmas that we need to look for in ourselves and in our world," he said. The first candle symbolizes hope, the second peace, the third joy and the fourth love.
"What can we do to promote hope in our families, in our communities, in our world? What can we do to promote peace, joy and love in our families, communities and world?"
The Muslims offered a musical performance by Dr. Michael Frishkopf, Dr. Ashraf El-Assaly and Abdelhadi Ouadjoni. The Jewish presentation included two lively and colourful dances, performed by the Mayim Dance Troupe, comprised of girls aged 11 to 16. For the Christians, two hymns were sung by parishioners from the Spirit West United Church – the ancient O Antiphons and modern Hope is Star.