Last summer, St. Peter, Erindale, Solel Synagogue in Mississauga and Masumeen Islamic Centre in Brampton joined forces to offer an Interfaith Peace Camp for children in their congregations. On the last day, a get-together was held for the parents and children. There were many positive comments from the parents, including a few who wished something similar could be done for adults. Out of this the idea was born for a dinner that would move from one place of worship to the next.
This dinner was held this year on May 5. We began at the Masumeen Islamic Centre for a tour of the mosque. All the visitors were greeted with a heartfelt “Salaam alaikum,” which means “Peace be with you.” We saw the classrooms, gym and prayer halls for the men and women. Sheikh Jaffer H. Jaffer explained the important foundational beliefs of Islam: belief in one God whose presence is everywhere; reverence for the prophets from Adam to Mohammed; and the Day of Judgement at the end of time when all souls will be divided into heaven or hell based on their actions on earth. He also spoke about the obligations to pray five times a day and to fast during Ramadan. After sharing appetizers and more conversation with one another, it was on to St. Peter’s and a dinner of vegetarian lasagna.
At St. Peter’s, the Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid, incumbent, led a tour through the worship space and shared some of the basic beliefs of Christianity and the foundational stories of Christmas and Easter with the group. She did an admirable job of condensing 2,000 years of history into 10 minutes to explain why there are so many Christian denominations. We were treated to a short demonstration of the pipe organ. Our guests enjoyed exploring the space and engaging in conversation with parishioners. Ringing the bell in the tower was a highlight for a number of people.
We finished at Solel Synagogue with dessert and conversation with Rabbi Audrey Pollack and Arliene Botnik, the director of education at the synagogue. Rabbi Pollack greeted us with the words “Shalom Aleichem,” pointing out the similarity of the Hebrew greeting to the Arabic greeting, and talked about the Torah and Jewish identity. We had an opportunity to see the beautiful hand-written Torah scroll and hear her chant a portion of it. Mrs. Botnik talked about the history of Solel Synagogue and took us on a tour of the kosher kitchen, explaining the laws of kashrut. The evening ended with Rabbi Pollack leading the blessing prayers to close the Sabbath. She also explained the meaning of each blessing of light, wine, and spice, as symbols of the sweetness of the Sabbath.
It was a wonderful evening exploring the three Abrahamic faiths and getting to know our neighbours. Although there are differences of belief between the three groups, there are also many similarities including a desire for peace, and service to the community.