World Social Justice Day
Multifaith congregation at City Hall
Piano recitals and musical prelude by Nabil Fadai.
Opening Unity Prayer
Oh my God unite the hearts of thy servants and reveal to them thy great purpose. May they follow commandments and abide in thy law. Help them Oh God in their endeavours to serve thee. Oh God leave them not to themselves that God give steps by the light of thy Lord and cheer their hearts by thy love.
Words of Welcome by Harold Rosen
Good afternoon and a warm welcome to all. We thank our musician and reciters, we thank you for being here at City Hall here on traditional Sto:lo land.
Land that is blessed by millennia of livelihood of many untold generations of our first nations brothers and sisters. We delight in all our relations, diverse sampling joining us here today.
The Baha'i's of Chilliwack have gathered us together for the 9th Annual Multifaith Gathering and it is very challenging to bring people from different traditions together and they've been doing this for 9-years and that's a great achievement.
This year the program is built around the theme of the "Prosperity of Humankind". Our program will highlight conditions that will improve the lives of all the world's peoples and establish a society in which all participate and benefit.
This afternoon we're joining people all over the world, who this weekend are observing World Day of Justice and World Day of Social Justice.
A few years ago the United Nations declared February 20th to be World Day of Social Justice, a timeto renew international resolve, a time to focus attention on eliminating poverty, promoting full employment and decent work, fostering social integration and making progress toward gender equality, improving access to social well-being and justice for all.
Today we are gathered for many purposes but including to reflect on some important questions;
1. Does our world family as a whole enjoy economic justice?
2. Are wealth and opportunity fairly distributed?
3. What have we learned from the global financial crisis?
4. As we survey the confidence do we see conditions of social equality?
5. Are human rights widely observed and protected?
6. What degree of gender equality have we achieved?
7. What degree of peace and security?
8. What ethical guidance and spiritual motivation are provided by the world's religions?
So we reflect and we worship and we hope to (unintelligible) the dialog and that dialog will be conducted next Thursday, February 25th and I'll say a little bit more about that dialog later.
The Prosperity of Humankind is the title of a 15-page document by the Baha'i International Community, an agency that's affiliated with the UN and in it's an agency that I was involved with myself before I became a Baha'i because I was impressed with the work they were doing in the world.
I'm now going to share a brief summary of this statement and then introduce our devotional program.
The Prosperity of Humankind offers a vision of prosperity that is both material and spiritual. Such prosperity must benefit all of the planet's inhabitants without distinction. The document challenges the purely materialistic assumption of global development planning. It looks at human nature and it declares that human nature is intrinsically spirtual. We are aspiring beings motivated by transcended ideals. Ideals like justice and compassion, community and wisdom.
The focus is on humanities oneness, the principle of unity and diversity. it is described as the bedrock of all global development and the groundwork for global civilization.
The Prosperity of Humankind requires a spiritual conception of justice, justice being as a faculty of the soul which discerns truth from falsehood and establishes a balance of rights and responsibility.
"The light of men," said Bahaullah. "Is justice and the purpose of justice is the appearance of unity."
The ocean of divine wisdoms surges within his exulted words.
Prosperity will be approached when all social issues are complete and conceptualized through the process of consultation and for Baha'i, consultation is a very vital method for approaching all social issues. Consultation is a social process of disciplined truth discernment and wise choice-making. Consultation speaks to benefit the whole group and today the whole group means "the whole world."
"No welfare and no well-being can be obtained," taught Bahaullah. "Except through consultation."
Another being of the Prosperity document is the complimentary nature of science and religion. When science and technology are guided by morality and spiritual principles, humanity's advancement knows no bounds.
Two more themes I want to touch on very quickly; another theme in the document is A New Work Ethic. work is defined as all that is done in the spirit of service. Service which promotes social well-being, service which appreciates the equality of women and men, service which contributes to the advancement of nations.
Another theme is redefining power. Many people think of power as personal advantage or group advantage but the document says we should think of power as a range of creative resources within all of us. Resources which when unified, benefit all of humanity.
The final theme of the document is that we have arrived at a new day. Humanity has reached the threshold of a beginning of a maturation process, the day of global transformation.
"This is the day," said Bahaullah. "In which God's most excellent favours have been poured out."
"The united in council," he said, "Mass merit layeth in service and virtue and not into pageantry, wealth and riches."
Be generous in your days of plenty," said Bahaullah. "and patience in the hour of loss. Cling onto that which profit mankind."
Turning now to the printed program that you have, we have as you can see a lovely array of prayers from various faith communities and traditions along with instrumentals and choral offerings from the Chilliwack Academy of Music.
This afternoon we're trying to create a reverent mood. A mood of serenity and so we ask that there be no applause for musical presentations for quiet appreciation.
Ben Pourmokhtari - Hinduism
At the beginning of mankind and the obligation of selfless service were created together. Through selfless service you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires.
This is the promise of the creator. Every selfless act (unintelligible) is born from the eternal infinite Godhead. God is present in every act of service. All life turns on this law. Whoever violates it, indulging his sense for his own pleasure and ignoring the needs of others has wasted his life.
But those who realize that God within are always satisfied. Having found the source of joy and fulfillment they no longer seek happiness from the (unintelligible). They have nothing to gain or lose by any action. Neither people or things can affect their security.
What an outstanding person does, others will try to do. The standard that the people set will be followed by the whole world. There is nothing in this free world for me to gain, nor is there anything I do not have. I continue to act but I am not driven by any means of my own. If I ever refrain from having continuous work, everyone would immediately follow my example.
May the kingdom of justice prevail. May the believers be united in love. May the hearts of the believers be humble a part of their wisdom and may they be guided in their wisdom by the Lord. Glory be to God and trust unto the Lord what thou wishes to be accomplished. The Lord will bring all matters to fulfillment. Know this as truth evident by his self. (photo and name unavailable).
Sidrah Ahmad - Islam
With references from the Holy Quran
I seek Allah's protection from Satan who is accursed. In the name of Allah, the most kind and the most merciful.
The following are two verses know as "ayahs" read from the Holy Quran -- which is the Islamic divine text and it is read in the language of Arabic.
I am now going to give a translation. Please note that Allah is the Arabic word for God.
Verse 3:103 And hold firmly to the rope(1) of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you -- when you were enemies and Allah brought your hearts together and you became, by Allah's favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of fire and Allah saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you his verse that you may be guided.
Verse 3:104 And let there be (arising) from you a nation inviting to (all that is) good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong(2) and those will be the successful.
(1) Referring either to Allah's covenant or the Quran.
(2) According to the laws of Allah.
Compassion can be roughly defined in terms a state of mind that is non-violent, non-harming and non-aggressive. It is a mental attitude based on way for others to be free from their suffering and associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect.
In discussing the definition of passion the Tibetan word (unintelligible) there is also a sense of the state of mind that could include a wish for good things for one's self.
In developing compassion one could begin with a wish that oneself be free of suffering and then take that and (baby cried - unintelligible) and put it towards oneself and cultivate it and extend it out to include and embrace all others.
Genuine compassion is based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering. They have the natural right to fulfill this fundamental aspiration on the basis of the recognition, equality and commonality we develop a sense of affinity and closeness with others.
With this as a foundation you can feel compassion regardless of whether you view the other person as a friend or an enemy.
It is based on the other's fundamental right rather than your own mental subjection. Upon this basis you will generate love and compassion that's genuine.
The feeling of genuine compassion is strong and wise. it has a very profound quality. It is stable and reliable. For example if you see an animal in intensive suffering like a fish rising with a hook in it's mouth, you might spontaneously experience a feeling of not being able to bear it's pain. That feeling is based on a special connection with that particular animal. A feeling of 'oh that is my friend.'
In that case your compassion is based simply on the fact that that being also has feelings and can experience pain and have the right not to experience such pain.
So that type of compassion not mixed with desire or attachments is much more sound and durable. In fact, in one sense one can define compassion as a feeling of unbearableness (sic) at the sight of other people suffering, one other sentient being suffering and in order to generate that feeling one must first have an appreciation of seriousness or intensity of another's suffering.
So I think that the more fully one understands suffering and the various kinds of suffering that we are subject to would deepen the level of compassion.
When you are taking on another's suffering you may also initially experience a certain degree of discomfort, a sense of uncomfortableness or unbearableness but in the case of real compassion, the feeling is much different underlined the uncomfortable feeling with a very high level of alertness and determination because you voluntarily and can never accept another's suffering from a higher purpose. There's a feeling of connectedness and commitment.
I truly believe that compassion provides the basics of human survival, the real value of human life and without that there is a basic piece missing. A deep sensitivity to other's feelings with an element of love and compassion, without that, for example, there would be problems in man's ability to relate with this (unintelligible.)
(photo and name unavailable).
David McNary - Baha'i
From the writings of Bahaullah.
The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven God's holy veil, is to establish unity and concord amongst the people's of the world; make it not the cause of dissention and strife.
The religion of God in his divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men.
The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquility of peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth, are among the principles and ordinances of God.
Religion bestoweth upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind.
It behoveth the cheifs and rulers of the world, in particular, the Trustees of God's House of Justice, to endeavour to the utmost of their power to safeguard it's position, promte it's interests and exalt its station in the eyes of the world. In like manner it is incumbent upon them to enquire into the conditions of their subjects and to acquaint themselves with the affairs and activities of the diverse communities in their dominion.
We call upon the manifestations of the power of God, the sovereigns and rulers on earth, to bestir themselves and to do all in their power and that haply they may banish discord from this world and illumine it with the light of concord.
This is the day when God's most excellent favours have been poured out upon men, the day in which his most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences and with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of his care and loving kindness.
It behoveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this day, it conducive to the exaltation of their stations and to the promotion of their best interests.
This is the day whereon the ocean of God's mercy has been manifested unto men, the day in which the Day Star of his loving kindness hath shed it's radiance upon them.
The day in which the clouds of his bountiful favour have overshadowed the whole of mankind. Now is the time to cheer and refresh the downcast through the invigorating breeze of love and fellowship in the living waters of friendliness and charity.
In the age of light, who show true wisdom and who radiate great love will gain their rightful place in this world. Bring them onside is given to everyone that we can create either a heaven or hell.
According to our own tenets, blessed are those who always think of the welfare of others and pray for all the world.
If we learn the meaning of the word 'moderation', and apply it to everything like in this world of ours then it's a true spirit of harmony. Thoughts are implanted in a sense of consciousness in all the minds. (photo and name unavailable).
Christianity - Owen Duggan
Reading from the Prophets of Mika
The requirements for the expression of goodness by faithful people is what the prophet speaks of. The prophet does so in the context of the people who are facing vision of destruction and are being told by the prophet their behaviour is finally caught up with them and that they will need to do justice, practice goodness walk humbly before God.
And so the prophet speaks with what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high. Shall I come before him with burnt offerings with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul.
He has told you, oh mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.
Would you join me in prayer.
God of all life, we thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus the Christ, the person of peace who told his diciples before he left them, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you and I give to you not as the world gives, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
God, in an often unpeaceful (sic) world, we pray that we might take Jesus words into our hearts and live them in a way which gives respect and value to all seekers. We pray that the gift of faith, that special and life-giving relationship that you have given us can be lived in the ways in which the prophet spoke. We pray that justice might be more than a word that rolls so easily off our lips. We pray that we might be doers of your word and that we do so with the money and the education and the influence you have given us in this world.
With peace in our hearts, we can offer that gift the world can so often cannot give, we can make just economic development a reality. We can appropriately value and compensate the work of all people of the world and not just a chosen few.
We can enact laws that make the many exploited practices of women and children things of the past. We can do justice, we can love kindness and Lord we can walk humbly with you and with those around us and with those far distant from us.
God, show us the way. We pray that we might see in faith the uniqueness of all of your people and the uniqueness of your creation in which we are to live as stewards and as caretakers.
Help us to see your face in those people who's way of life we may not understand nor appreciate. Help us to use our resources and the bounty you have given us for the good of all humanity and not just for ourselves recognizing that we are sojourners on the earth and in this light and we are to leave the earth a better place for our presence here.
We thank you for the many ways you make this possible and pray that through your presence and direction in our lives, that we might be seen and known as those who walk humbly with you, the author and giver of all life.
We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Choir Singer Solos
They sang beautifully and one recited the Lord's Prayer with the piano. (names unavailable).
Judaism - Claire McGladrey
Road to Zion
With bended knees, with hands outstretched, do I hear for the effective expressions of the Holy Spirit working within me. For this love and understanding, truth and justice. So we've come to know the apparent from the real that I might alleviate the suffering of men on earth.
God is love, understanding, wisdom and virtue. Let us love one another, let us practice mercy and forgiveness. Let us have peace (baby cried - unintelligible). Let my joy be altruistic living and doing good to others. Happiness is unto him from who happiness perceived to any other human being.
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for the reverent to dwell in our community. It is like the precious oil on the head coming down upon the ears, even Arrons (sp.) ears the cometh down upon the collar like the dew that runneth down upon the Mountain Zion for there the Lord commanded a lesson even life forever.
Closing Remarks by Harold Rosen
Our hearts are pounding now. It is lovely to bathe ourselves in the beauty of moral guidance and spiritual guidance and the music of the ages.
It's my job just to sort of touch on some of the themes and weave them together and lead us to some acknowledgement and announcements. I heard news of welfare for all and detachment. It's as if we're hearing the same divine voice in all these packages, these beautiful messages that we heard.
Building a kingdom of justice, being worthy of God's bounty and not becoming divided, brothers and sisters all of us. Reminders that we're not alone. We have divine help, this was in the music. Having compassion in ever wider circles. Universal care, a kind of commitment to all beings. An emphasis on unity and concord as essential to bringing progress.
Mention of this being a very special day, day of bountiful favour, shifting to a new kind of world. Emphasis on freedom of choice to bring about good or ill and the need to have consideration and be moderate in all things. Emphasis on justice and walking humbly with our God.
Mention of bringing heaven to earth or of making earth a little more heavenly. Alleviating all suffering while together in unity.
I'm going to mention just a few things, you know all of us are used to bad news. We're surrounded by bad news in the media but an event like this is supposed to make us aware of the good news, the social justice, the degrees of social justice that are improving in various places.
Just a very brief history lesson; back in 1990 the world changed quite a bit, the cold war came to an end, the Soviet Union dissolved, and then the UN brought a bunch of town meetings, they called them "The Town Meetings of the World". There were a lot of summits and just to remind you of some of these, the one on "Education for All", there was a summit on children, children all over the world, an earth summit in Rio, a summit on human rights in Vienna, a summit on population in Cairo, a summit on social development in Copenhagen and a summit on women that was in 1995.
Also in 1995 there was this UN commission on global governance which started to call for a world summit on global governance. So these to me are little examples of humanity growing up, starting to care about the world as a whole, looking at everyone, every nation, all the religious groups, the brothers and sisters.
In that year, 1995, the Baha'i International Community wrote two documents; one was that Prosperity of Humankind that I referred to earlier, another one is called "The Turning Point For All Nations".
There was also a new interfaith organization formed that year, 1995, by United Religious Initiative.
I just want to jump quickly to 2000 and 2005 and then just a few months ago. In the year 2000 there was a millennial Peace summit at the UN and there were 149 heads of state that came together and thousands of non-governmental organizations and they came up with millennium development goals.
I just want to read you these goals just quickly; ending poverty was a goal set for all of humanity at that time, universal education, gender equality, child health, maternal health, combating AIDS, environmental responsibility and global partnership toward development. That means well-to-do nations helping less well-to-do nations.
Then in the year 2005, another world summit, 192 heads of state participated and what they did is monitor progress on all of those millennium development goals that I just mentioned and they did a few other things like setup a peace (unintelligible) commission, a new human rights council, a democracy fund etcetera.
Then of course just a few months ago, we had the Copenhagen Summit and many people thought it could have accomplished more but yet it was another step, 192 nations represented and humanity was moving forward being aware that we have to redistribute wealth.
In all of these ways I think humanity is becoming aware that prosperity is not just a material matter, it's moral and a spiritual matter.
I just want to make some acknowledgements and announcements and close with a prayer that's used in many multifaith gatherings.
We're grateful, and this is listed on your printed program, to Save-On Foods, The Real Canadian Superstore, Pricesmart Foods, The Chilliwack Academy of Music of course and Nabil Fadai.
There's two announcements, if I can continue. We've hopefully stirred up some dialogue with what we've touched on today, spiritually, musically and a few points about the state of the world, a dialogue that will happen Thursday, a cafe-style forum at the Travel Lodge which is right there near the highway, 4566 Yale Rd. W. and then a week following that in the same place there's going to be a course on the "Founders of Major World Religions". I'mgoing to lead that course and that too will have a lot of discussion about what humanity can learn from all of the world's religions.
We're very grateful to the planners of this event and all of the presenters and performers.
I want to close with a prayer that's used in many multifaith gatherings.
Oh blessed source, eternal Lord of creation, sustainer of all the world, with deep gratitude and reverence we evoke thy holy name. Help us to respect the spiritual freedom of all thy people. Help us to see that we are all thy children. Make our hands thy hands in the world, bringing compassion where there is harship, bringing plenty where there is want, bringing justice where there is oppression, bringing community where there is separation, bringing dignity where there is belittlement, and bringing unity where there is division.
Transform us oh Lord into thy love and let us radiate that love to all people. Elevate us into loftiness and nobility, give us the capacity to share loftiness and nobility with all people.
Thou art the compassionate, thou art the just, thou art the all-powerful. Praise be thou oh blessed source eternal Lord of creation, sustainer of all the world.
Please join us for fellowship and refreshments. Thank you so much.
Ben Pourmokhtari Interview
Voice: Who are you with sir?
BP: I am part of the Interfaith Committee of the Baha'i Community of Chilliwack.
Voice: Is this the first time that you've done this at the City Hall?
BP: This is the 9th year.
Voice: So each year you get more people, how is the turnout this year in comparison?
BP: This year is not too bad. Usually we have more but today I guess it was a beautiful day and the Olympics and the hockey game, big hockey game so. But usually we have it full (in the chambers). We usually hold it in November.
Voice: Are you going to have another one in November?
BP: I think we will be doing it in November again.
Voice: So the purpose of today's event is to bring the religions of Chilliwack together under one roof?
BP: Yes, basically to get the different religion's point of view, which when you look at it, is all the same. We talk about love and unity and justice which we heard today. All the readings basically talk about that. That's what our faith teaches, that religion is one. It's not different religions. There's only one God, one religion.
Voice: Even though Hinduism has thousands of Gods?
BP: When you look at it, they have one deity but then they have all these other Gods which in that age was something that was needed to teach people about God.
Voice: How long have you been living in Chilliwack?
BP: I've been here 1½-years now.
Voice: Where are you from originally?
BP: Originally I'm from Iran but I've been in Canada for 20-years.
Voice: So you lived in Vancouver?
BP: I've lived in Burnaby and moved to Surrey and then to Langley, Abottsford and Chilliwack.
Voice: So you're from Iran and that is a predominantly Islamic country, yet you're Jewish faith?
Voice: So that's a Jewish faith?
BP: Baha'i is actually the rule to Islam. The same as Christianity is through this to Judaism. But we believe that all religions are connected but in Iran we are the largest religious minority.
Voice: So the Baha'i faith has nothing to do with the Jewish faith?
BP: Well the Baha'i religion does have a connection to Judaism, Christianity and Islam so yes.
Michaela Gristenthwaite Interview
Mother: She is from the Lytton area
Voice: You're from Lytton? You came all the way from Lytton today?
Mother: Her family is from Lytton.
Voice: So you go to school in Chilliwack?
Voice: What school?
MG: F.G. Leary Elementary School
Voice: What grade are you in?
MG: I'm in grade 5.
David McNary Interview
Voice: What church are you with here today?
DM: Baha'i faith.
Voice: Have you been to these before?
DM: Yep. I helped organize the one we had last year.
April Neave - Baha'i Faith Interview
Voice: Did you help coordinate this today?
AN: There was a task group.
Voice: yes, a committee?
AN: It does take a committee because there are numerous connections in the community and whether they're all able to participate is not always possible. It's amazing, I mean we've got Persian, we've got Shinto, we have Buddhists, we've got Sikh in our community, and it's wonderful for them to come to this event and participate and that's where our interests are in presenting it is to bring people together and have that kind of dialogue and coffee afterwards or whatever and other opportunities to talk about their faith and spirituality.
Voice: You've been to these before, you've coordinated these before?
AN: A few times.
Voice: How do you think the turnout was today?
AN: I think we were competing with the Olympics.
Voice: So there could have been more people?
AN: We've had over 120 people in the past.
Voice: There's about, I think I counted about 40 today?
AN: Yeah, I think probably if you added the kids, maybe 45. But yeah I think we had competition with things going on in the community.
The end of the interviews.
Photo gallery below.
Chilliwack Arts Centre choir singers.
Ben Pourmokhtari. Baha'i Faith.
David McNary - Baha'i
Harold Rosen - Baha'i Faith.
Michaela Grisenthwaite playing drum with her mom.
Owen Duggan - Christianity.
Sharie Atley with the Chilliwack Academy of Music.
Sidrah Ahmed - Islam.
The end of the gallery. Thanks for looking and we hope you enjoyed the story/transcription and interviews.