tim wieclawski/metro ottawa
"The fact that it is at city hall and has the support of the mayor and councillors is a very big statement for the freedom of religion in Ottawa."
A little understanding goes a long way.
That was the premise of World Religion Day celebrations held yesterday in Ottawa and Gatineau, where groups representing major religions in the capital assembled at Jean Piggott Hall in Ottawa city hall and at Gatineau’s Maison du Citoyen to share their beliefs and gain some perspective into others’ views.
“This is only one day a year, but people will go home and talk to their friends and family and spread their understanding,” said Niels Hansen-Trip, of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ottawa. “It’s a step toward building and spreading peace.”
World Religion Day has been celebrated for 58 years, but Hansen-Trip said it has enjoyed a growth spurt in Ottawa after amalgamation, when then Mayor Bob Chiarelli proclaimed the third Sunday in January for it. The ceremony featured choirs and dancers from various religious groups.
“The fact that it is at city hall and has the support of the mayor and councillors is a very big statement for the freedom of religion in Ottawa,” said Cantor Daniel Benlolo, from the Beth Shalom Congregation.
Benlolo has attended World Religion Day celebrations for four years. When people learn about other religions, they become more understanding of others and tend to realize they have more in common than different.
In Gatineau’s event, speakers said young people are key to creating tolerance and understanding among different faiths in fast-growing multicultural areas like the capital.
“The more we understand each other, the more tolerant we are and the more we can love each other,” said Mohamad Jebara, the president of Cordova Academy, a school that teaches Classical Arabic.
“The reason for most of the problems in the world is because of ignorance,” he said.
“I found it really interesting how we can have differences, but we are all still connected,” said Fatima Jadavji, 20, who visited to learn more about what religions have in common. “It’s enlightening to see what else is out there.”