Report on the GREATER TORONTO WOMENS MULTIFAITH FORUM at the University of Toronto, Sunday, November 20, 2011

(submitted by Barbara Landau and Karen Mock of the  Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims)

As a culmination of the Weekend of Twinning in Toronto, the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims (CAJM) held a Women’s Interfaith Symposium entitled: Sharing our History- Shaping our Future. The purpose of the symposium was to listen, learn and enhance solidarity between women of diverse faiths who are united by a shared passionate commitment to peace, equality, human rights and social justice. We seek to build upon our religious diversity to empower each other and to share both our similarities and differences.

We had a wonderful day and are very happy with what was accomplished. Specifically, we decided to take on an issue—Domestic Violence—that we plan to work on as an organization going forward. We agree that it is important to have the leaders of our faith communities speak out against domestic violence and to educate children about violence against women and children.  We believe that December 6, the anniversary of the horrific 1989 Montreal massacre during which a deranged women-hating gunman brutally murdered 14 women engineering students at  L’Ecole Polytechnique, is an appropriate occasion to have our faith leaders speak out in support of protecting women and children.

In that regard, we plan to lobby rabbis, imams and other faith leaders to read statements during the week of Dec 6th in support of ending violence against women and children. We will be seeking assistance from the keynote speaker at our conference, Kathleen Wynne, the former  Ontario Minister of Education,  and  current Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs,. We will ask Kathleen for an introduction to the current Education Minister with a view to creating a mandatory curriculum for both public and religious/private schools on Domestic Violence and its impact on women and children.

We decided that two women from our group– one Jewish and one Muslim—will speak on our behalf at a gathering at the University of Toronto at the annual memorial event for the victims of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique.  Until this year, that event has been secular in nature,  but our members want to bring the voices of our faith communities to that event.

We also agreed to meet again in January, 2012 to continue our efforts to build a strong  organization and plan further events.   We owe special thanks to Dr. Karen Mock, Nuzhat Jafri and Diane Mandell  who did a great job of helping us focus on developing an action plan. The participants really bonded and there was an excellent spirit of camaraderie!!  Thank you all for a wonderful experience!!

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