Imam Dr. Mohamad Jebara, Head Master and Resident Scholar at Cordova Academy and Andalusia College in Ottawa, travelled from Ottawa to Quebec City via bicycle and roller blades in the summer of 2014.
Imam Jebara, aka the Cycling Cleric, embarked on his 501-km journey from Ottawa to Quebec City to:
Imam Jebara is not an athlete but he has a passion for making a difference using unconventional methods.
The Cycling Cleric Best Practice involved reaching out to faith- and cultural-based organizations of all types as well as targeting sports-related businesses for sponsorship.
In preparation for the trip, the Cycling Cleric team visited cities and towns along the route and reached out to faith and cultural organizations to inform them and encourage them to join the cause. The team also addressed faith-based leaders and congregations. The ability to bring all people together for a common cause, regardless of faith or cultural background, is what made it a success.
Imam Jebara hoped that his cycling trip would uplift people – especially in faith communities – and inspire them to extend a loving hand to the world, simply out of love for humanity. The initiative was inspired by his desire to see change, which he believes must come from within.
"Neither incantation nor supplication alone can make a difference," says Imam Jebara. "In reaching any goal, one must push oneself to move, especially when one feels paralyzed and devoid of energy. This requires a strong spirit. Indeed, it is worse than slaughter to break a person's spirit, crush their hopes and extinguish their drive. Conversely, to uplift a person's spirit, resurrect their hope and rejuvenate their drive is the greatest form of saving lives."
The main goal of the initiative was to inspire Canadians to stay physically active by raising awareness about heart disease and raising funds for heart and stroke research and prevention. Imam Jebara hoped Canadians would be encouraged when they learned that he undertook his journey despite having suffered from back pain for nine years.
Every 10 minutes, someone in Canada dies of heart disease or stroke, making them the two leading causes of death nationwide. The Cycling Cleric project aimed to tackle this problem, and serve as a stepping stone in helping to improve the quality of Canadian lives, by promoting health and fundraising for life-saving research.
Making a Difference
The Cycling Cleric acted as a catalyst for positive change in his promotion of healthy living and helped to raise a few thousand dollars for research.
The project gained the support of over 29 organizations, businesses, community leaders and individuals including Bushtukah, Trillium Gift of Life, Carleton University, the Carleton University Students Association, the City of Ottawa, the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue and local faith groups.
The project created a buzz online as supporters followed the Cycling Cleric's progress on Facebook and Twitter. Moreover, it encouraged local Canadians to think twice about the health of their hearts, and has even inspired others to participate in a similar trek next year.
The biggest challenge came from the Cycling Clerichimself, as he was not an athlete, had never gone on a trek of this length and had a history of back pain.
Contacting every local organization, business and community leader for support and sponsorship was a challenge at first. The Cycling Cleric required certain equipment to facilitate his journey, which had to be acquired; he also needed food and lodging. Determining a safe route also presented an initial challenge.
Vision for the Future
The Cycling Cleric aims to be an annual charity project to raise awareness about healthy living. The team hopes to continue to network and build cross-cultural bridges through a common cause.
The Cycling Cleric plans to go cross-country skiing in December 2014 to continue his awareness campaign.
About the Cordova Center
The Cordova Center's aim is to establish friendship and promote love, harmony and understanding among various cultural and faith groups and communities, in an effort to enrich the Canadian multicultural experience, and encourage the healthy integration of young Muslims as productive and positive contributors to the success of the 'Canadian dream.'
The Cordova Center is non-sectarian. It promotes diversity and understanding, emphasizes traditional Islam and works to prevent radicalization, intolerance and religious extremism amongst Canadian Muslim youth.
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