On the evening of Sunday, July 5, Faith & the Common Good and the Noor Cultural Centre co-hosted a “sold-out” multi-faith climate action iftar, a shared meal to break fast during Ramadan. This special Iftar was designed to showcase and celebrate the breadth and diversity of Ontario faith voices in support of climate justice.
Many of us spent the day walking our faith at Toronto’s #JobsJusticeClimate march, so the iftar celebration was a time to rest and break fast together while we learned from each other about the diversity of ways faith communities are putting their sacred calling to care for the earth into action.
The evening began with three powerful voices. Noor Cultural Centre President Samira Kanji welcomed us and explained how the spiritual renewal of Ramadan helps ground our shared work for climate justice. Curve Lake First Nation community leader and Sacred Water Circle founder Dorothy Taylor set the stage for the evening by leading our blessing and acknowledging the territories and ancestors of the first peoples of the Mississauga. Ontario Environment and Climate Minister Glen Murray opened the discussions by expressing the deep urgency of this work and describing the powerful role diverse faith groups can play in emphasizing the moral dimensions of the climate crisis.
We then switched gears to think more tangibly about how we can practice what we are preaching on climate justice. Dorothy Taylor and Cathy Mitchell explained the Sacred Water Circle’s work using indigenous spiritual teachings around the sacredness of water to empower and reinvigorate community water protection plans. Muaz Nasir introduced Khaleafa.com’s “Green Khubtah” program, which has gained international acclaim as a concrete way to respond to the need for more Muslim religious leaders to raise awareness around the links between Islam and environmental protection. Next year, this campaign will be expanded to include a call for environmental sermons from all faith leaders. Mennonite Church of Canada head, Rev. Willard Metzger, described the broad consensus around the need for positive moral voices that challenge our culture of consumption. This need was one of the key learnings that emerged from the Canadian Council of Churches and Citizens for Public Justice’s recent nation-wide “2015 Climate and Poverty Justice Tour.” Fo Guang Shan’s Venerable Jue Qian and Community Environmental Alliance’s Ranjana Mitra described how they are working together to transform hearts and behaviors across Fo Guang Shan Buddhist networks with an ambitious zero-waste initiative. Rev. Linda Nixon shared the 10-year journey of the Anglican Diocese of Huron’s EnviroAction committee, from a few passionate activists on the outskirts to leading a centrally supported diocesan-wide environmental action initiative reaching a wide swath of south western Ontario. Finally, Joy Kennedy of #FastfortheClimate and Rita Bijon of #ClimateFast described the power of fasting as a catalyst for climate justice.
A moving call to prayer marked the breaking of the fast and the start of a delicious vegetarian meal. Throughout the evening, Irene Borins Ash’s “One Planet: Harnessing Hope,” which features people of faith and spirit responding to the call for environmental healing, provided a stunning photographic backdrop to the evening. We also are grateful to Earth Day Canada for their presentation of the 2015 Earth Flag campaign as a tool to encourage us all to lower our carbon footprint.
I think that I speak for all, when I express the sense of hope and encouragement I felt at the close of the celebration. Regardless of our faith background, we are facing similar challenges of how to respond given limited resources and many other worthy, competing agendas. It is wonderful to know that we are not alone in these struggles. We have an inspiring and diverse faith-based network to learn from and cooperate with. Together we are stronger. Together we can help our local communities and country renew the sacred balance with the earth. — Lucy / Faith & the Common Good
Thanks again to the evening’s supporters!
Toronto Area Interfaith Council, KAIROS Canada, Canadian Council of Churches, Khaleafa, Sacred Water Circle, Citizens for Public Justice, Eco-Sikh Canada, World Interfaith Harmony Week, Toronto Board of Rabbis, Church of Scientology Toronto, Donway Covenant United Church, Fo Guang Shan Toronto, Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA, Green Awakening Network, Neighborhood Interfaith Group, and the Cordoba Centre for Civic Engagement and Leadership.
**About the Noor Cultural Centre: This is a centre of Muslim learning serving a Canadian Muslim identity that is inclusive and respectful of all diversity – that which exists within the Muslim community itself and also the multi-faith environment of which Muslims are a part.