By Kim MacAulay
“Oh Canada, the land of compassion”, the mayor of Amman, Jordan remarked, when I told him I was from Halifax. I was really amazed at his response. It made me happy, and proud to be a Canadian. How wonderful to have Canada thought off in this way.
It was April 2016. Anthony Power and myself, representatives from Interfaith Harmony Halifax (IHH), along with two representatives from Uniharmony Partners Manila, Philippines, and the international Euclid University were at the award ceremony in Jordan’s Royal Court to receive the King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prizes.
We were awarded third prize, the second year in a row for Canada to receive this award. Please don’t miss this point. Canada received international recognition for interfaith harmony two years in a row: IHH in 2016 and Interfaith Toronto in 2015. Compassion, interfaith harmony: what Canadian community might be acknowledged next for these values?
We want to celebrate this award with the rest of Canada, and appreciate the growing interfaith movement in our city, country and around the world.
We’re a Halifax collaborative representing diverse community partners, cultures, ages, skills and abilities, along with diverse faiths and people of good will. Our purpose is to promote the vision of World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW).
Initiated in 2010 by King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, its vision is to spread harmony through promoting ‘Love of God and Love of Neighbour or Love of the Good and Love of Neighbour’. Each year, the King awards three prizes from the growing number of events held worldwide.
Why did we win the 2016 award?
• Showed excellent effort, collaboration and impact with little resources
• Respected each religion as it is
• Specifically celebrated WIHW, rather than good interfaith work in general
The judges were impressed with our widening annual impact, and Proclamations from the Province of Nova Scotia and the City of Halifax, as well as local, regional, national and global ‘Declarations of Interfaith Peace and Friendship’.
My encounter with the mayor that day in the Royal Court was especially meaningful because of his use of the word ‘compassion’. I try to practice compassion daily to stretch and open my heart, especially when I want to close down. I also co-direct a community non-profit called Waves of Compassion, dedicated to fostering a more compassionate culture. I wanted to find out more from the Mayor.
He explained that he was a young boy in Ghaza City during WWII, and help was given by Canada. He remembered seeing bags of food marked, “Made in Canada”, and it made an impression on him as a young boy.
After that initial introduction, I talked further with Mayor Biltaji, and found out that he has a close connection with the Charter for Compassion International and Karen Armstrong, and that Amman is recognized as a ‘Compassionate City’.
I told him about Waves of Compassion, which also is a part of that same international network; and that we’ve discussed becoming a chartered Compassionate City with our mayor and council. Like Amman, the City of Halifax, as well as the Province of Nova Scotia, are also very supportive of World Interfaith Harmony Week. “In fact”, I told Mayor Biltaji, “we brought ‘letters of support’ to the King this morning from the mayor and Minister of Justice.” He said, “I’ll probably see those letters. I think that’s why they brought me here – to get the mayors more involved.”
All these connections made this encounter very exciting. This excitement deepened during the award ceremony. How wonderful to see the king enter the room and then to receive awards from him. He seemed warm and present to each one of us. I was excited to meet the person who proposed this global interfaith initiative.
Canada’s two WIHW prizewinners have already started collaborating, and are enthusiastic about Canada’s leadership opportunity. We, at IHH and Interfaith Toronto, are eager to join together in an online presence to
• Further promote the vision of WIHW
• Garner support for a petition to Parliament to proclaim WIHW in Canada
• Shine the light on WIHW events across the country, and
• Encourage everyone to declare commitment to interfaith peace and friendship
This is the way for Canadians to ‘walk our talk’. WIHW encourages us to learn about and get to know each other; appreciate and enjoy our diversity; and embrace this spirit of working together as Canadians. Given the turmoil in the world, we cannot afford to do otherwise.
We are proud of our country receiving this international recognition two years in a row, and appreciate our leadership in fostering interfaith peace and harmony in the world. May we always be seen, at home and abroad, as a people of compassion.
So, enjoy the award everyone! Share it with your communities, spread the good news, and let’s join together in WIHW 2017.