By Shashi Bhatia
DURHAM: As a member of the “Multi-faith organization of Durham Region,” I practice tolerance and respect towards people of all religions. In Durham we are blessed with sincere believers from faiths originating in all parts of the world and cultures. In recognition of this diverse Canadian reality, for the past seven years Christians, Muslims, Hindu’s, Bahi’is, Jews, Sikhs and other religious denominations have gotten together to celebrate ‘World Religion Day’ in Durham.
This community event helps foster interfaith understanding and harmony among members of the various faiths in a world beset with ignorance and human conflict. Together we celebrate the commonalities between religions and strive for a peaceful world where all who wish to can worship unhindered according to their own beliefs.
Just last week I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at the symposium, “Loyalty to Country is Part of Our Faith,” organized by Ahmadiyya Muslims of Durham.
My high regard for those who practice the Ahmadiyya faith has grown over the years, for notwithstanding the serious discrimination and even persecution they face in some parts of the world, they have the strength of character instilled in them by their faith to rise above it. We should all be heartened by their stand for tolerance and peaceful mutual existence among all peoples.
As Canadians of all faiths we are fortunate that the Government of Canada is absolutely committed to taking positions of principle when issues relating to democracy, human rights, the rule of law or the lack of religious freedom are at stake anywhere in the world.
In my view, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper’s announcement at the Ahmadiyya mosque regarding the establishment of an Office for Religious Freedom within our Foreign Ministry was most welcome. This initiative will allow Canada’s voice to be heard even more forcefully than ever against the persecution of religious minorities wherever they find themselves under threat simply for their beliefs.
I commend the Ahmadiyya community and the many adherents of other religions for their interfaith dialogue and commitment to bringing mankind together.
(Shashi Bhatia is the founding chair of the Indo-Canadian Cultural Association of Durham. Durhan Region lies to the east of Toronto)