The Words of the Lee Family
Toronto, Canada -- Devotional music and interfaith prayers at UPF-Canada's annual Inter-religious and Multicultural Family Festival set the atmosphere for reflections about treating people from different religions and cultures with respect and compassion. Religious holidays such as Christmas offer special occasions for celebrating and for sharing with those who around us who may be in need.
More than 75 people of different religions, cultures, and ethnic groups attended the December 20 event at 215 Mavety in Toronto, organized under the leadership of Dr. Chae Hee Lee (chair of UPF-Canada), Dr. Hoossen Auckberaullee, and Rev. Mitch Dixon.
The festival was enriched by the rock band "Clearstone and Heaven's Call," and Emilio Zarris and Roy Tugbang thrilled the audience with their magnificent singing. Roy, who is just 14 years old, reminded the audience of Luciano Pavarotti because of musical style and resonant voice, and people applauded in appreciation. Rev. Lee and Ms. Miae Lee also sang, followed by other male and female singers. Video presentations highlighted UPF activities all over the world in 2009.
Emcee Rev. Paul Tamale led a joint prayer for peace and goodwill with the faith in Almighty God. Then representatives from different religions and cultures were invited to speak on a topic of their choice.
Dr. Richard G. Morgan spoke on the behalf of the Christian community, highlighting the importance in the life of a Christian of Mother Mary, Joseph the Carpenter, the three Wise Men, and the shepherds. Everyone played a divine role when the messiah was born in Bethlehem. Mother Mary kept the covenant while delivering the baby; Joseph the Carpenter took care of Mary in difficult times; the three Wise Men travelled far from home to bring him gifts; the shepherds came to see the baby Jesus while not forgetting their responsibility for their sheep. Everyone had a responsibility towards this center of wisdom and unity in Jesus Christ. "Wisdom is the prize of knowledge," Dr. Morgan said, "and I am proud of being a Christian by following such wisdom."
Rev. Earl Smith from the Church of Scientology spoke of his strong belief that respect for everyone is essential to the achievement of happiness. Everyone of us carries a spirit within us, but few realize its importance. As an example, he told about a lady who backed up her car and accidentally ran over her own daughter. A man standing nearby came running and lifted the car, rescuing the girl. The rescuer did not know what had helped him lift the car, which he could never have done otherwise. Such is the spirit which empower those with a righteous heart.
Author Qamrul A. Khanson spoke about interpersonal relationships from the Islamic perspective and congratulated everyone on the new Islamic year of 1431 (counting from the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina in 622 CE.) In Islam, the relationship among the believers is based on brotherhood. The Qur'an promotes sincerity as people relate with diverse people, simply because we are all children of Adam (peace be upon him). Islam does not permit differentiation in the treatment of other people on the basis of religion, color, race, sex, or nationality. The Last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), said: "Whoever persecutes a non Muslim, I shall be a complainant against him on the day of Resurrection." He further said, as recorded in the Hadith, "One who hurts a non-Muslim; he hurts me and one who hurts me hurts (Almighty) God."
Rev. Stoyan Tadin spoke on behalf of the Unification Church. The occasion of Christmas reminds us of the need for a strong desire to achieve the perfect will of God. Our mutual love for each other can enhance our ability to carry out the will of God, but we often lack the love and thus our capacity is limited. Let us develop a willingness to sacrifice for the other. That is how we can perfect the divine nature within each of us.
Mr. Willie Nebus spoke of his utmost devotion to peace and harmony, which he credited to UPF and its principles. He mentioned the plight of his community in Philippines due to the imminent danger of eruption from the nearby Mayon volcano, which has been spewing red lava. The two typhoons that recently struck the Philippines island of Luzon are expected to have a negative impact on economic growth at least in the short term. At such an important juncture, he reminded people to trust that God is loving, gracious and forgiving, quoting the words of Jesus, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Ms. Bahi Krishnakhantan, a spiritual psychotherapist of Sri Lankan origin, fascinated the audience when she spoke of the wisdom that transcends religious and cultural boundaries. The three Wise Men who followed the star must have been supported on their journey by visionary people who offered them supplies for the journey, such as food and drink. Wisdom is the magnificence of universe. People generally mind their own activities, but a star gazes upon human activities. A stars is great, she said, and those among us who follow the shining star will reach our destination. Keep alive your passion to be wise.
Dr. Faisal Al Rfouh, a visiting Fulbright Scholar in political science from Michigan and a former Minister of Labour in the Kingdom of Jordan, congratulated the audience with greetings of peace and mentioned the city of Bethlehem, which is just few kilometers from his hometown in the West Bank. He spoke of his deep desire for peace in Palestine, Iraq, and other areas where UPF could play a mentoring role. For almost ten years, he has felt a resonance with UPF's idea of peace, and this inspired him to submit a paper on the topic of a "Culture of Peace." He presented a plaque from Jordan's historic Petra to Dr. Lee.
Dr. A.H. Patel of the Ontario Multifaith Council briefly spoke about his experiences at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne, Australia. During the conference he gave a lecture, visited religious sites, and found time to visit people in a Melbourne jail.
Rev. Mitch Dixon expressed his utmost desire to see unity among people. That ideal is possible, he said, if we respect every human by living together. Let us be religious, live according to eternal values, and share joy with each other through Almighty God. Our faiths are diverse but there are commonalities in our deeds as we collaborate through UPF and the values it inculcates: respect, dignity and love among the diverse people.
The meeting ended with the rock band playing while people dined on the meal provided hosted by UPF.