On Monday, April 18, 2016, 7 p.m. at Allan Hall, Lakeshore Drive United Church, Morrisburg, will host the first visit to South Dundas of the very distinguished scholar and accomplished speaker, Imam Jebara from the Cardova Center.
The Cardova Center, a not-for-profit Canadian organization headquartered in Ottawa, aims to “build friendship and promote love, harmony and understanding among various faith groups and communities.”
“In our ministry,” said the Rev. Jon Martin of the Iroquois-Morrisburg-Riverside Heights Anglican parish, “we all recognized that there were a lot of strong opinions about Islam in our South Dundas community, often more based on myth and superstition than on any facts.”
Members of the local clergy felt that a visit by someone like Imam Jebara, extensively educated, and familiar with many other faiths, might open a new dialogue in the community, one resting on education rather than on fear-based and untrue stereotypes.
“We wanted someone to come to us who could tell us about Islam,” Martin said.
“Another aspect of the picture was the recent influx of Syrian refugees to Canada. We felt that people might want to know more about who their new neighbours are,” Martin added.
For many in South Dundas, indeed for many throughout much of Canada, the only exposure to Islam they experience is through the media, which often focuses on acts of terror.
The South Dundas ministry first learned of Imam Jebara through the Rev. Pat Martin, rector of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Almonte.
He came to speak to members of that church, and the community, answering any and all questions with tact, with humour and with understanding.
“He made a great and very positive impression,” said Jon Martin. “And Rev. Pat remarked how very patient and good humoured he is.”
Imam Jebara’s nickname around Ottawa is the “Cycling Cleric,” Martin explained.
“He regularly gets on his bike to take part in fund raising events, especially those which promote a healthy life style and raise awareness about heart health and organ donation.
His aim is to break down stereotypes and promote understanding. Imam Jebara wants to make a positive effect on people’s lives.”
Imam Jebara is very pleased to be coming to South Dundas to meet people and to talk.
As an artist, an athlete and a lover of the outdoors, the Imam welcomes diversity, and the growth of healthy and compassionate communities.
“I believe faith should be a unifying force that brings people together in balanced harmony through understanding, respect and friendship.
That is the Islam which I was taught, which I love and which I teach,” he said in an interview with The Leader.
He is happy to talk to gatherings, large or small.
“Every soul is precious and special,” he explained. “Knowledge is light and a source of empowerment, and it is an honour for me to serve as a beacon of knowledge to others. For as we teach, so we learn.
All people have wisdom to share. I have learned much from people who attend my talks as they share their personal stories and experiences.”
He especially understands the challenges presented by the influx of Syrian refugees to Canada in the last months.
“People naturally feel apprehensive towards the unknown,” he said.
“It becomes necessary to dispel myths and reassure the concerned parties that the objects of their concern are merely human,” the Imam continued, “with hopes and ambitions. They have feelings and dreams.
They want to see their children live in dignity and contribute to their new, adopted land, just as many immigrants have done before them.”
Asked what, in all his work, gives him the most joy, Imam Jebara has a simple response.
“Bringing a smile to people’s faces and empowering others with knowledge by tearing down the walls of the unknown.”
Everyone is very welcome to come and meet Imam Jebara at Allan Hall on Monday, April 18, to join in the dialogue.
For additional information, contact Rev. Jon Martin at 613-643-2147.