Multifaith community leads anti-poverty walk

Sarah Bourcier-Miller, Julie Dabrusin, Rabbi Miriam Margles and Rev. Robin Wardlaw
From left, Rev. Sarah Bourcier-Miller of Eastminster United Church, Julie Dabrusin, MP Toronto-Danforth, Rabbi Miriam Margles of the Danforth Jewish Circle and Rev. Robin Wardlaw of Glen Rhodes United Church, helped lead the Danforth Multifaith Community walk in 2016. (Credit: Barbara Silverstein)

The Danforth Multifaith Community (DMC) marked World Food Day and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 16 by participating in the national, anti-hunger “Chew on this!” campaign.

The DMC organized a walk through Toronto’s Greektown to raise awareness of hunger and poverty. The 50 participants started at Madinah Masjid (Mosque) and ended at the Danforth Jewish Circle sukkah at a member’s home in Playter Estates.

As they made their way west along Danforth, the marchers distributed paper bags with apples and anti-poverty literature in support of the Chew on this! campaign.

Six faith communities in the east end are the sponsors of DMC, including Madinah Masjid and Eastminster United Church on Danforth Avenue, Glen Rhodes United Church and the Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation, near Gerrard and Coxwell avenues, and two other organizations that do not have their own buildings. The Danforth Jewish Circle often holds services at Eastminster, while the Pakistani Community Centre is housed at Glen Rhodes church. This community also partners with Madinah Masjid for prayer.

On hand at the mosque was Julie Dabrusin, MP for Toronto-Danforth. She held the DMC banner for a few blocks of the one-kilometre walk.

About mid-point along the route, Samba Elequa, a Brazilian-style percussion band joined the procession. The Unitarian minister, Rod Emilio Solano-Quesnel, is a member of Samba Elequa, and he was playing in the group.

The drums and whistles of the band helped draw attention to the marchers and their cause as they passed the trendy eateries and cafes on this upscale stretch of Danforth.

Karen Robbins, co-chair of the Jewish group’s interfaith committee, also co-chaired the walk, with fellow member Eve Lynn Stein, and their longtime DMC partner, Tasleem Riaz, a leader of the Pakistani community at Glen Rhodes.

“We’re so lucky to be in this country where this kind of dialogue is possible,” Robbins said. “In a multicultural city like ours, we have the opportunity to get to know one another from different communities and to spend time in each other’s communities.”

Riaz, a co-founder of DMC, said she started doing interfaith outreach 10 years ago. “People may be Muslims, Christians or Jews, but we are all human beings first, and that’s what matters to me.”

Aslam Nakhuda, an imam at the Madinah Masjid, told The CJN that the community walk was a good way of raising awareness about poverty. “It’s all of our responsibility to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings in whatever way we can…

“I think communities have to work together. We can’t live in our bubbles. There is no other option.”

He shared this message of unity in the fight against poverty with the group after everyone had assembled in the large backyard community sukkah.

Imam Nakhuda was among the five spiritual leaders there. Rabbi Miriam Margles of the Danforth Jewish Circle, Rev. Sarah Bourcier-Miller of Eastminster, Rev. Robin Wardlaw of Glen Rhodes and Rev. Solano-Quesnel were the other clergy in attendance.

Rev. Bourcier-Miller and Rev. Wardlaw also addressed poverty in their brief speeches.

Rabbi Margles spoke about the harvest at Sukkot and its connection to poverty. “We invite guests to share our bounty and our gratitude for this abundance, recognizing that on this day, so many people in this country don’t have enough to eat.”

“I was very moved to hear all the various faith leaders talk,” Robbins said after the sukkah program ended. “It really reinforced how we can be one community. We all care about the same thing when it come to poverty.”