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Canada: Humanity First shows way to interfaith co-operation

In the course of my meeting with Dr. Daud he cited several teachings from his Muslim tradition that resonate with similar sayings in mine. But had we systematically sought to compare our theologies we’d have to list fundamental differences that could end in disagreement or worse.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch |
Source/Credit: The National
By Dow Marmur | December 23, 2012

Every denomination of every religion I know insists that it practises the most authentic version of the teachings of its founders. But unlike fundamentalists, liberals are less likely to claim that others always get it wrong. The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam is of that kind. Because it’s open to the world, human responsibility to care for each other seems to be no less important to its members than prayer and ritual.

In my liberal version of Judaism this is often described by the Hebrew term tikkun olam (mending the world). It stresses social action as a supreme religious obligation, and has usually more in common with corresponding movements in other religions and in the secular world than with conservative exponents in my own tradition.

Though the Ahmadiyya are persecuted in Islamic countries and shunned by other Muslims everywhere, they thrive in Canada and contribute to society by doing important work here and elsewhere in the world.

One of its most successful outreach programs is Humanity First. It provides rescue and relief to victims of wars and natural catastrophes everywhere. Most recently, hundreds of its volunteers were active in disaster-stricken U.S. states. During his visit to New York after Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama singled out the Canadians to thank them for their help.

In addition to its global concerns, Humanity First is committed to local needs. For example, it runs a food bank that delivers basic necessities to people all over the GTA. To mark this holiday season, its volunteers will serve pizza meals today and tomorrow to the homeless in downtown Toronto.

The chairman of Humanity First and leader of the Ahmadiyya community in Canada, Dr. Aslam Daud, told me that his denomination never seeks to convert workers or aid recipients, because theology tends to be divisive. As a result, the volunteers work well together for the good of the disadvantaged whoever and wherever they may be.

In the course of my meeting with Dr. Daud he cited several teachings from his Muslim tradition that resonate with similar sayings in mine. But had we systematically sought to compare our theologies we’d have to list fundamental differences that could end in disagreement or worse.

That’s why social action is the best basis for interfaith co-operation. Instead of comparing doctrines, partners are called upon to engage in joint activities for the good of people of all faiths and of none. By working together for humanity instead of arguing about divinity, the place of religion can be enhanced in our society.

Others disagree, often vehemently. They insist this approach is no more than secularism in disguise. Traditionalists complain that liberals dilute the faith they profess to the point of rendering it meaningless. On the other hand, secularists may suspect this is only a version of missionary work. That’s why religious liberalism is often in danger of falling between two stools.

And that’s why traditional Muslims keep away from Ahmadiyya, fundamentalist Christians have no time for religious modernists and Orthodox Jews distance themselves from liberals. Ironically, non-believers also are often hostile: They tend to want religion to be rigid in order to oppose it with greater ease and make sure that they’re never tempted by it.

As a liberal Jew I’ve been greatly impressed by the work of Humanity First precisely because it’s rooted in religion. Its admirable activities confirm me in my belief that despite attacks from our respective right wings and the occasional taunts by dogmatic opponents of religion, we need each other and the world needs us to testify to the presence of God as manifest in the caring for God’s creatures.

Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple. His column appears every other week.

Read original post here: Humanity First shows way to interfaith co-operation

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