In March 2017, the SSIO of Canada hosted a series of interfaith events in Canada’s largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver – in conjunction with Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation. The programmes, organised in partnership with Faith in Canada 150 and the 150 Alliance, had the goal of establishing closer and more cooperative ties between faith groups.
On 5th March, 50 SSIO members hosted an interfaith musical event in Toronto, in collaboration with various faith and community groups, including representatives of native spirituality, the Ecumenical & Interfaith Affairs office of the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Canadian Council of Imams, the Canadian Multifaith Federation, the Intercultural Dialogue Institute, the International Development and Relief Foundation, Scarboro Missions, Huronia Christ Catholic Church, Sri Ayyappa Samajam of Ontario, Richmond Hill Hindu Temple, the Toronto Board of Rabbis, Living Presence Ministry, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the World Interfaith Harmony Week Toronto Steering Committee, and Vaalmigi Ashram. About 100 youth from the various groups, including Sathya Sai Young Adults, presented a musical performance to an audience of about 300 people. SSIO officers and others gave inspiring talks on the harmony of all faiths, despite outward differences, and recognising and honouring the diversity of religious communities. Elder Little Brown Bear of the Bear Clan delivered an aboriginal invocation prayer, thanking the Great Spirit for bringing everyone together, and called for love in action and working together in peace. A powerful and moving performance on drums accompanied the invocation prayer and set the tone for the following musical presentations, rendered in various languages and highlighting the oneness of all faiths. The programme concluded with a song jointly composed by the SSIO young adults, the Toronto Jewish Chorus, the St. Bart’s Catholic Ensemble, and Band 11, titled “We Are One in the World, We Are One in the Song.” Many of the faith groups present expressed interest in future collaborations with the SSIO of Canada. Also, the Chair of the World Interfaith Harmony Week invited members of the SSIO to join the World Interfaith Harmony Week Toronto steering committee.
The following weekend, on 11th March 2017, 70 members of the Sathya Sai Centre of St-Hubert, Quebec, and 15 others hosted their first Interfaith Conference, themed “Unity in Diversity.” Six faith groups from the community were invited – the Islamic Community Centre of Brossard, the Chabad of the South Shore, the Buddhist Community, the Sikh Community, the United Church of St-Lambert, and the Archdioceses of Montreal. The message of universal love was conveyed by a representative of each faith, and the young adults of the Sathya Sai Centre lifted spirits through beautiful music with a multifaith theme. In a symbolic gesture, the faith leaders placed flowers in a vase to demonstrate their commitment to work together to serve the local community and to organise musical and cultural programmes jointly.
Another interfaith event took place on 17th March 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta, to bring awareness that all religions lead to one God. The event, attended by 100 SSIO members and another 100 individuals, featured leaders from nine faith groups: Aboriginal Spirituality, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. Educational material from each faith was exhibited. After the opening national anthem, Sai Spiritual Education students recited prayers from all religions. The keynote speaker, Dato Jegadeesan from the SSIO of Malaysia, shared video clips showing 700 volunteers serving adults and children with mental and physical challenges in New Zealand and Malaysia. The programme also featured a panel of faith leaders responding to questions posed by a moderator and the audience, and the singing of a variety of religious hymns. Young children presented a beautiful dance, and an accomplished soprano singer sang the popular hymn, “Amazing Grace,” with poise and élan. The religious groups also formed the Edmonton Interfaith Action Group for serving the local community.
In British Columbia (BC) the same weekend, on 18th March 2017, the Vancouver Sathya Sai Community Centre hosted an interfaith event attracting more than 90 SSIO members and others from across the province. Faith groups represented included the Ahmad’diyya Muslim Jama’at, BC, the United Church Vancouver, the Zoroastrian Society of BC, the Shree Mahalakshmi Temple of BC, the Buddhist Vihara Society of BC, the Spiritual Assembly of Baha’i Community of Vancouver, and the Khalsa Diwan Societies of New Westminster and Vancouver. All the faith representatives affirmed the message of universal love, and the evening concluded with a symbolic candle-lighting ceremony to spread the flame of love.