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By Vinita Kinra

June 25, 2015: Sayeda Khadija Centre reveled in a surprise dignitary at the community fast breaking dinner when Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister hopeful leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and son of late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, joined the richly diverse gathering. Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI GTA) and Faith of Life Network successfully united the multiple faiths thriving in our community to share perspectives on the globally pertinent issue of “Abstinence and its role in healing many of today’s ills.”

Dr. Hamid Slimi, President of the Faith of Life Network, emphasized the importance of sacrifice by pointing out the abundance of food and amenities we are lucky to avail, but never find time to count among our blessings. He mentioned humorously that we have to bribe our kids to get the smile we deserve as parents. He elaborated that fasting and renouncing the pleasures that are at our disposal is the path to understanding their true value. When you deprive your body of essentials like food and water, only then you will truly appreciate their value.

Chander Khanna, Vice President of the Hindu Institute of Learning, reiterated the tenets held dear in Islam by equating their significance in the Hindu religion. He remarked that constraints of abstinence may temporarily spike our urge to attain the forbidden fruit, but restraint is the only way to test our self-control and appreciate the bounty of privileges bestowed upon us. He also noted that India propelled the world to mark June 21st as International Yoga Day to reap benefits from this 5000 year old ancient Indian tradition that promotes holistic health.

Rabbi Debra Landsberg of the Temple Emmanu-El cited well-known Jewish traditions and accepted that fasting has numerous benefits if practiced without causing any harm to the human body.

Buddhist perspective was not far when Ven. Jue Qian, representing Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, confessed that not all Buddhists are vegetarians. She went on to enumerate the far-reaching consequences of a non-vegetarian diet that not only causes living beings to lose their life to satiate human hunger, but results in sweeping damage to the environment.

The audience was treated to views of inclusion, acceptance and mutual respect by Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, when he urged everyone in attendance to value their family and simple pleasures afforded by life. He joked that life these days is very fast-paced. Pizza arrives in 30 minutes and the microwave takes 30 seconds to answer our cravings for hunger. Yet, we are immersed in technology that takes away from our family time. We must endeavor to cherish those around us as they are our pillars of support.

This event, perfectly anchored by Azim Shamshiev, Executive Vice President of IDI GTA West, was not just about a dynamic exchange of ideas and ideologies central to the many faiths present, but an unparalleled opportunity to foster intercultural cohesion and banish stereotypes. The greatest example of this feeling of oneness was exemplified when people owing allegiance to different religions prayed with their Muslim fraternity upon the call right before breaking of the fast festivities commenced.