Raising awareness about the plight of the poor is a theme common to many religions and that was certainly true of the religious groups that organized the Danforth Multifaith Community walk.
About 100 people from four different faith groups in Toronto’s East End participated in the third annual Chew on This! walk, which draws attention to the persistence of hunger and poverty in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
The walk, which was held on Oct. 21, coincided with the national Chew On This campaign.
The people who attended were members of the Danforth Jewish Circle (DJC), the Madinah Masjid mosque, the Neighbourhood Unitarian & Universalist Congregation, the Pakistani Community Centre, as well as the Glen Rhodes and Eastminster United Church congregations.
Local politicians were also in attendance. Toronto Councillor Paula Fletcher, MPP Peter Tabuns and MP Julie Dabrusin led the march. Both Tabuns and Dabrusin, who’s a member of the DJC, represent the Toronto-Danforth riding.
In an interview with The CJN before the official start of the program, Rabbi Miriam Margles, spiritual leader of the DJC, spoke about the “multifaith partnership” and the role it plays in Toronto’s East End.
“We’ve been building this coalition over many years,” she said. “It’s so important for us to get to know each other and to learn from each other and to celebrate together.
“This march is about working together to address social justice issues. Today, in particular, we are working to end poverty and food insecurity.”
Rabbi Margles said this multireligious group was also instrumental in planning the community vigil that was held in response to the mass shootings that took place on Danforth Avenue in July. “The community needed a context to grieve together,” she said
This march is about working together to address social justice issues. Today, in particular, we are working to end poverty and food insecurity.
– Rabbi Miriam Margles
The shooter’s Arabic name triggered an “anti-Islamic backlash” from an “alt-right” group that assembled at a park in the area, the rabbi recounted, noting the DJC and its multifaith partners helped organize a counter-demonstration. They significantly outnumbered the “alt-right” demonstrators.
The 2018 Chew on This! walk began with a multifaith gathering in the Madinah Masjid mosque. Participants were greeted by Irfan Desai, president of the mosque. He said he felt it was important to build a relationship with the other local faith groups because “we’re all part of the same neighbourhood.”
The four religious leaders – Rabbi Margles, Imam Abdullah Mangera and Reverends Sarah Bourcier-Miller (Eastminster) and Wayne Walder (Unitarian Universalist Congregation) – addressed the group on issues related to poverty.
“Welcome. It’s refreshing to see new faces,” Imam Mangera told the group. “Working together excites me. We have put aside our differences to come together for a good cause: eradicating hunger and poverty.”
“Welcome. It’s refreshing to see new faces,” Imam Mohamed told the crowd. “Working together excites me. We have put aside our differences to come together for a good cause: eradicating hunger and poverty.”
He said the Danforth Multifaith Community is “a role model” for how diverse groups with common goals can work together.
Afterwards, the procession moved westward along the Danforth to the Eastminster United Church, home of the DJC. People sang and some of them even played drums. The singing was led by the Just Us multifaith singers.
The marchers carried signs that read: “Dignity for All: Campaign for a Poverty-Free Canada”; “Canada rates 24th on income equality”; “Everyone Belongs”; and “October World Food Day.”
“This is one of the most significant community gatherings,” Coun. Fletcher said. “I always support this initiative.”
The walk culminated in a social hall at the Eastminster church, where the groups shared bread and sang together. The bread was blessed according to the traditions of the three faith groups.
“I approve of the work of the organizers,” Tabuns said. “It makes a difference in the community. When people are brought together, they find their differences are small.”