News Story

Community Interfaith Service Highlights Peace and Unity

A community of believers recently gathered in the Oshawa Ontario Stake Centre of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to demonstrate peace and unity. For the past five years, the Durham Interfaith Prayer for Peace committee has hosted an annual service where members of various faiths worship together and faith leaders contribute prayers, readings and talks.

This was the first year that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was invited to participate and host the event. Additionally, Indigenous, Bahá’í, Christian, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Unitarianism, Universalist and Zoroastrianism denominations also participated.

President Domenic Maglioli, first counsellor of the Oshawa Ontario Stake, presided over the event. Acknowledging the ties that bind us as brothers and sisters and children of God, he said, “As I ponder the purpose of this day, … I can’t help but appreciate in a greater way that although we may worship differently, there is so much that is the same about us. … We all have similar hopes and dreams and even similar fears and insecurities. This is not a surprise if we consider that 99.9% of our physical DNA is the same. Only 0.1% makes us different. I believe that our spiritual DNA, so to speak, is the same.”

Rabbi Irit Printz of B’Nai Shalom V’Tikvah in Ajax, Ontario, continued this sentiment as she prayed: “Let all who dwell on earth simply acknowledge the truth of truths: that we have not come into this world for the sake of quarrelling and war, nor for the sake of hatred, jealousy, anger or bloodshed. Rather, we have come into this world to know You and follow in Your footsteps, to love, to cherish and to care for those around us.”

Rev. Michelle Singh, an Interfaith minister in Toronto, Ontario, read from Anwar Fazal’s “Remember, We Are One”:

We all drink from one water
We all breathe from one air …
And we live under one sky
We Are One
The newborn baby cries the same
The laughter of children is universal …
And our hearts beat the same song.

Throughout the service, members of an interfaith choir expressed their collective faith through beautiful music, their voices blending as one.

Interfaith gatherings such as the Prayer for Peace service are timely as news of attacks on places of worship and increased discord between families, neighbours and nations have become widespread and pervasive. Diversity in race and religion is characteristic of Canada. In Ontario alone, over 90 denominations exist (Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey). Thus, the need for understanding, inclusivity and unity has never been greater.

As President Maglioli stated in his address, “We may become discouraged in witnessing what appears, at times, to be a lack of peace and an increase in contention. … Disagreements will arise, but we don’t have to be disagreeable. … How do we go about bringing peace to the world? The answer to this is provided in a quote that is attributed to St. Ignatius, a Jesuit: ‘Pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on you.’ … We ourselves can be peacemakers, and with God’s help, inspiration and guidance, we can help bring peace to individuals, families and even to nations.”

Lisa Whitsitt, director of public affairs for the Oshawa Ontario Stake, said of the service: “As we gathered with the participating faith leaders and the community to unite in prayer and music focused on peace, we felt a great sense of unity and love for one another and recognized that we are all children of God. He is aware of each of us and can assist us through life’s ups and downs.”

As the service concluded, the message of love and unity appeared to be felt by all. This message rings as true today as it did in 1978, when the First Presidency of the Church stated, “Our message is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father” (as quoted by James E. Faust in “The Restoration of All Things,” Apr. 2006 general conference).

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