From Plowshares to Music – A Sunday Read (From the Blog of Glen Pearson, MP)

An amazing post from the blog of Glen Pearson, MP for London North Centre.

http://glenpearson.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/from-plowshares-to-music-a-sunday-read/

From Plowshares to Music – A Sunday Read

March 7, 2010 by glenpearson

Israel Apartheid Week, as predicted, stirred up a dust storm in various regions of the world, including Ottawa. The government’s penchant for permitting its support for Israel to push this country off the cliff of its historical balancing act between Israel and Palestine has resulted in Middle East skirmishes all over the capital and in its policies.

And then along comes Tzedaka/Sadaqah Project. Difficult to pronounce, its actions are nevertheless clear and unassailable. It’s actually a group of Jewish and Muslim students from the University of Western Ontario who have decided that history moves on, even when the prejudices of others remain stilted. Their practical mandate states: “The Jewish and Muslim communities share many important values that originate from common religious teachings. As students, we want to illustrate the importance of working together through shared values to make a difference in our local community, despite our religious and political differences.” Not very complicated, nor hopelessly political either.

This week, some 75 Muslim and Jewish students did what they’ve been undertaking all year: providing and preparing food for those who can’t provide for themselves by assisting local churches with their “Out of the Cold” program. Muslim and Jewish young people helped Christian institutions, there’s a concept. And it continues to work because these students have the sheer ability to blow past all the rhetoric that swirls around their respective faiths these days and actually put their beliefs into action.

In seen and unseen ways they have followed in the footsteps of their elders, who broke some historic ground by creating Salam/Shalom – a joint effort by both communities to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. This effort was so innovative that it caught the attention of CNN. But times are moving on and the older leadership is giving way to a newer generation of pathfinders. These remarkable people, young and old, represent some of the finest hope for our city. They are neither ashamed of their faith or their willingness to use it to heal the wounds (and prejudices) of others.

The vision statement ofTzedaka/Sadaqah is remarkably simple:

1. Give back to the community
2. Focus on mutual values within our faiths
3. Gain an understanding of one another’s faith
4. Build bridges between our communities
5. Encourage an inclusive and respectful atmosphere on campus
6. Acknowledge that differences exist in political views
7. Have fun!

Does this sound like language from the Torah and the Koran to you? But in every way it represents the absolute essence of both faiths and the ability to see past differences to build and protect life. Imagine concluding a modern religious plan of action by concluding with “have fun.” Remarkable.

A while back, I penned a blog post on the recent passing of Rabbi Joel Wittstein. A remarkable man in so many dimensions, he moved the Jewish community to a place of peace the same way Faisal Joseph, Mohammad Yassein, and others, led by example for their Muslim friends. At Rabbi Wittstein’s deeply moving service, the leader said that we must go beyond beating our weapons into plowshares. We must then form those plowshares into musical instruments, so that when moments of tension and struggle emerge between peoples and anger results, they would be forced to beat their instruments into plowshares instead of weapons. I was so moved by that insight that I was breathless.

Well, these young people are singing and have moved beyond the plowshares. Their music moves us and their actions point the way, not only for their future, but for Canada’s return to peace and an honest broker for it in the Middle East.

Neve Shalom/Wahat Al Salam

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