First Muslim Who Walked Across Canada and Made History
MUSLIM IMAM WALKS 6500KM FOR PEACE
He Inspired Muslim Youth to Stand up Against Violence
Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is the first Muslim who walked from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean covering more than 6500 kilometers to create awareness about the dangers of violence. He walked as the lead walker of the Multifaith Walk Against Violence.
Imam Syed Soharwardy is a Canadian Muslim Imam. He was born and raised in Pakistan. He is a son and grandson of great Islamic Scholars of Pakistan and India. His father and Murshad (spiritual guide), Allama Syed Muhammad Riazuddin Soharwardy (May Allah’s blessings be upon him), was a very well known Islamic scholar, a great Sufi, and a poet of Pakistan. His grandfather, Allama Syed Muhammad Jalaluddin Chishty Nizami (May Allah’s blessings be upon him), was a Grand Mufti of undivided Kashmir who later moved to Amritsar, Punjab (India) during the early 1900s.
Imam Syed Soharwardy is the elder brother of world renowned Naat Khwan, Qari Syed Fasihuddin Soharwardy and Allama Syed Muhammad Ejazuddin Soharwardy. Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is the Head Imam of the Al Madinah and Al Makkah Mosques in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, Muslims Against Terrorism and the World Sufi Mission.
Imam Soharwardy’s students and mureedeen (disciples) have spread out throughout the world. Imam Soharwardy does not make a living by serving his religion Islam, but by working as an IT consultant in Canada. His services for Islam and the Muslim community are 100% volunteer.
By walking more than 6500 kms, Imam Soharwardy has revived one of the most important traditions of Sufis. That is, to walk long distances. He may be the only Muslim in current times that has walked for an important cause: PEACE.
May Allah bring peace in our hearts, in our homes, communities, cities, countries and around the world for everyone. Amen.
Calgary Imam Walks For Peace Between Faiths
By Lloyd Mackey
November 6, 2008
Syed Soharwardy, a Muslim imam from Calgary, has completed a six-month walk across Canada, in which he enlisted a fair number of Muslims and Christians to wage a “jihad” against violence.
Soharwardy’s walk began April 20 in Halifax and ended October 27 at Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway, when he dipped his feet into the waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait, below the cliffs fronting Beacon Hill Parkin Victoria.
Interviewed by CC.com on the American election day, November 4, Soharwardy was careful to explain his “jihad” comments by noting that violence is an evil that is, as he understands it, condemned in the scriptures of both Islam and Christianity.
He noted that since first floating the idea of the anti-violence walk over two years ago, he has formed friendships with many Christian and Jewish people and leaders across Canada. Among them are the Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, and Michael Ward, the senior minister of Central United Church, an evangelically-leaning congregation, also in his home city.
He leads the Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, which usually attracts about 1,500 to its Friday prayers, and is home to at least 5,000 on special holy occasions, like Id.
The process of taking on the walk involved some careful thought, he said. He does not draw income from his role as an imam, but rather, earns his living as an IT consultant.
In arranging his financial affairs, he re-mortgaged his house, so he would have income during the walk. And he is grateful, he said, for the support of his family, wife Shaheen and their two young adult children.
At times, he has received a fair amount of flack from other Muslim leaders, but the twin factors of fanaticism and secularism help to fan such opposition, he said. If people in his faith would return to the root of The Prophet’s teachings, rather than trying to interpret in either a violent direction on one hand, or a secular bent on the other, Islam would be better understood.
Some of his critics, he said, accuse him of “getting too cozy to Christians.”
While he appreciated the support he has received from many Christian leaders, Soharwardy allowed that there is more building work to do. At one point during the walk, he said, he met some Mennonites who held, within their faith, to many of the same ideas with respect to peace and non-violence that he sees to be a part of his own outlook.
Where does the imam go from here?
“Now we want to concentrate on getting churches and faith groups in every town and city going, to stay engaged, and try for annual days of walk against violence in those places,” he said.
“They will be multi-faith, walking together, trying to change people’s hearts.
“Through this walk, what I tried to achieve was by the grace of God. There is no place on earth where one can walk 6,500 kilometres, through different areas, among conservatives and liberals, and no one said, ‘I don’t like you because of who you are.'”
Trek for Peace Wore Out Five Pairs of Shoes
Sean Myers, Calgary Herald
October 28, 2008
He wore out five pairs of shoes, lost more than 10 kilograms and covered 6,470 kilometres on foot.
But as Syed Soharwardy dipped his feet in the Pacific Ocean near Victoria’s Terry Fox statue on Monday, he was most proud of the fellow walkers he attracted to his six-month odyssey for peace.
“I feel a sense of relief and sense of accomplishment,” said the Calgary imam. “I have had so many people of different faiths with me. We’ve had Christians, Buddhists, Unitarians and people of the Jewish community. This is exactly what I wanted to do.”
Soharwardy set out from Halifax on April 20 on his cross-Canada Multifaith Walk Against Violence.
Covering an average of 35 to 45 kilometres a day, the Calgary Muslim leader wanted to grab the attention of Canadians and unite them in a common purpose, to end violence.
“I heard voices of support all along the way,” said Soharwardy. “In every town and every city, people came out and testified their support and walked with me for a kilometre or two.”
He said he’s had people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, come out to join him. About 200 people turned up at the B.C. legislature for the walk’s closing ceremony on Monday.
Soharwardy said the movement to end violence won’t stop with the completion of the walk. He and his supporters are planning to set an annual day to celebrate the end of the journey with smaller walks in cities and towns across Canada.
One of the most useful results of his trek has been the establishment of a communications network between religious institutions, he said.
“Now I have a network of connections across the country between synagogues, mosques, churches and temples,” said Soharwardy. “It will be much easier to set up conference call meetings to discuss common issues.”
After more than six months on the road, Soharwardy says what he now looks forward to most is reuniting with his family.
“I just got a phone call from my wife, that was highest point of my day,” he said, noting he’ll return to Calgary today. “It’s been a big sacrifice for my children and my wife.”
Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence Ends Successfully at Mile Zero in Victoria
By Naseer Pirzada
November 8, 2008
“A Muslim is that person from whose hands and tongue the others are safe.” Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him)
Prof. Syed Badiuddin Soharwardhy, the leader of the Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence, and the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism, made a commitment to travel across Canada to raise awareness against violence and chose to walk the entire length of the route across Canada . He started this journey from Halifax , Nova Scotia April 20, 2008 and finished in Victoria on Oct 27th.
Stop in Surrey
On Oct 25th , Islamic Supreme Council’s BC chapter welcomed Professor Soharwardy in Bear Creek Park , Surrey where he was accompanied by his team including a customized vehicle which was driven by Mr. Sheikh Abdul Hameed . The City Council of Surrey and many NDP and Liberal leaders were invited to the event. Mohammad Afzal Malik was the master of ceremony and invited Mayor Dianne Watts, MP Penny Priddy, MLA Harry Bains, MLA Sue Hammell, MLA Dave Hayer, Mr. Ijaz Chata of Surrey Civic Coalition, MP Sukh Dhaliwal , MLA Bruce Ralston and MLA Jagrup Barar to speak at the event. Everyone praised the efforts and perseverance of Prof. Soharwardy.
At this occasion, Prof. Soharwardy explained Multifaith Walk against Violence and its purpose and his many experiences on the way. He said that our target is to heighten awareness about the forms and dangers of violence to society and how it affects all of us.
There is much violence in different shape around us in this world, such as physical violence in which child abuse, domestic violence, gangs, bullying and elder abuse are included. Others are Terrorism, structural violence, the violence that is built into social, political and economic structures such as caste, patriarchy, etc. and racial discrimination.
Religious traditions can be resources for building peace. At the same time, certain people use false interpretations of religion to justify violence.
Afterwards, Sheikh Ismail and Maulana A. L.Naumani made dua and lunch was served to all the guests by community volunteers. the end.
Prof. Soharwardy continued his walk on King George Highway in Surrey crossing the Patullo bridge and walking next day via Kingway to Vancouver City Hall .
Welcome at Parliament Building , Victoria
On Oct 27th this Multi faith Walk started under the leadership of Prof. Soharwardy with M.Haris, Shehzadha Hameed from Victoria Ferries Bay to Parliament building where Mr. N. Pirzada, Mr. S. Faroqui, Mr. Moiud deen, Mr. Waheed Ch. joined them and. they all walked on the streets of Victoria stopping at the stairs of the Parliament building.
Representatives from different faiths greeted them at the Parliament building. A stage was decorated by multifaith groups holding banners for peace and War against Violence. Ms. Karima Ramgi, the board chair of the Victoria Multifaith Society from Bahia Faith was the master of ceremony at this podium. She invited many members at this stage, all they thanked the efforts of Prof. Soharwardy against violence and commended him for walking from East to West coast. Councilor Chris Coleman, acting Mayor of Victoria said that he is feeling very proud that this walk made history in this town and congratulated the team on behalf of the city. Mr. Sarfaraz Ahmed, President of Can Pak also thanked Prof. Soharwardy for taking such a novel initiative. Mr. Syed Soharwardhy addressed at Parliament building podium, and expressed his views. He told everyone that he received a warm welcome every where, especially by First Nation people. He also thanked everyone who joined and spoke about his efforts against Violence.
After the address, Prof. Soharwardy continued his walk with his friends till Mile Zero where he dipped his feet in the Pacific Ocean and lifted his hands to thank Allah (SWT) who gave him this strength to complete this terrific and historical walk about 6600Km, truly a Noble Mission.
The same evening, Can Pak and Inter Cultural Association of Greater Victoria organized a Potluck Dinner with Syed Soharwardhy at 1st Metropolitan Church Victoria where cake cutting ceremony was held.
The Miracle team congratulates Prof. Soharwardy for completing such an enormous task and making the entire Muslim community proud. We wish his message of awareness against violence reaches across the nation and Allah (SWT) keeps giving him strength to continue his efforts. (Ameen)
Islamic Leader Walks the Peace Walk Across Canada
He’s done a lot of talking — speaking out against violence — along the way
Katherine Dedyna, Times Colonist
October 26, 2008
An Islamic leader who mortgaged his house to walk across Canada in the cause of non-violence is striding toward Victoria after six months on the road.
“We should be in Victoria on [Monday] and we are looking forward to people of all faiths, all Canadians, to come and join us during our walk,” said Imam Syed Soharwardy. He remains passionate about his Multifaith Walk Against Violence, but in a cellphone interview at the 5,945-kilometre mark near Kelowna, admitted he was glad it’s nearly over.
Since Soharwardy, the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism, began walking April 20 in Halifax, he has encountered everything from a large bear to tornado territory, suffered severe heat stroke and lost nearly 10 kilograms.
The closing ceremony — a multifaith gathering — is slated for 3 p.m. at the B.C. legislature and all are welcome.
“It seemed fitting that at the end of the multifaith march, the (Victoria) Multifaith Society should be there to greet him,” said chair Karima Ramji, although the groups are not related. Also on hand will be the Raging Grannies, classical accordianist David Bryan Person of Cobble Hill and singer Kathryn Whitney.
“Even to drive, that’s a long way, let alone walk — so obviously he’s someone who’s really very committed to raising public awareness and that’s a good thing,” said Sheila Flood, a member of the Saanich Baha’i community.
Soharwardy said the “high point” has been meeting Canadians who unburdened themselves about how violence has affected their lives and encouraged him to keep going.
The walk is about changing people’s opinions about violence, he said. “We have to stand up and say, no this is not acceptable.
“This walk is not about one faith or one group of people; this is a walk of all Canadians and people of all faiths coming together and saying that violence has no place in any religion, including Islam, of course.”
The constant feedback elates him, such as “amazing scene” at a construction site where about 30 workers stopped work and came over to talk, shake hands and accept souvenir shirts.
It’s all “very motivating” to keep up the 32 kilometres he covers a day — down from 40-plus on the Prairies.
“People are honking and waving — this morning there were three people who joined us for shorter distances,” said the 53-year-old information technology consultant from Calgary. Outside Enderby, a young fellow asked, “Is your walk against child abuse, too? And I said, ‘Yes, absolutely — all forms of abuse and violence.’ And he started crying.”
Occasionally, people have run out of their houses to hand him cheques for $100. One was a low-income, elderly woman in the Maritimes who told him he had to keep the cheque for a month until she had money in the bank.
He has seen changes of heart both by victims of violence who have committed to stand up to abuse and by others determined to stop using violence to resolve problems — but he also urges people to seek help from counsellors.
Soharwardy’s walk had its roots in a meeting of an inter-faith group two years ago, where participants voiced dismay about rising violence. He suggested a walk emulating Terry Fox to get in touch with ordinary people about the dangers of violence. Unable to find a sponsor, he mortgaged his house and took a leave of absence from work.
There were times he wasn’t sure he would make it. One June day, when it was pushing 40 degrees in Toronto, he suffered heat stroke, requiring paramedics’ assistance. Sick for a week, he thought God wanted him to stop. But his wife wanted him to go on, and after a few days of rest, he was back on track.
Stopping at the Terry Fox memorial for a multifaith gathering near Thunder Bay was one of the most poignant times on the trip. Even a self-identified pagan joined the circle to share how inspirational Fox was.
Near Ignace, Ont., a huge black bear appeared between him and the recreational vehicle — “we were scared to death” — but it soon ambled out of sight.
Rev. Mac Elrod, a retired Unitarian minister, is “thrilled” that Soharwardy’s walk is terminating in Victoria, underscoring that faiths in general and Islam in particular are opposed to violence and “to the use of religion as an excuse for violence.”
Baha’i Flood thinks the image of Islam has been “dragged in the dirt,” in recent years. “It seems unfair because the majority of Muslims are peace-loving and from our study of their holy writings, it’s clear that violence is not supported.”
Lacing Up for a Cause
By Dharm Makwana, 24 Hours Vancouver
Date: October 27, 2008
Syed Soharwardy wants to stamp out violence and the best way he thought he could do that was with his own feet.
The Calgary-based Imam is mere kilometres away from completing his cross-country Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence today.
“Violence has no place in our religions,” Soharwardy said. “Violence has no place in our homes. Violence has no place in our communities.”
The IT specialist took a nine-month leave of absence and mortgaged his home to finance the trek he said costs upwards of $200,000.
Flanked by supporters since leaving Halifax April 20, Soharwardy walked up to 40 kms a day.
The walk ends today in Victoria. For more info on the walk, go to www.walkagainstviolence.com
Anti Violence Campaign Takes it to the Road
By Scott Trudeau
October 14, 2008
A nation-long walk to bring attention to the grievous violent acts in today’s society passed through the South Okanagan Monday.
Syed Soharwardy and Haris Saleh of Calgary have completed more than 6,000 kilometres of their cross-Canada journey which began on the docks of Halifax on April 20 of this year.
Soharwardy, 53, who is the founder of Muslims against Terrorism, said the idea to embark on the Multi-Faith Walk against Violence to shine the light on various types of domestic violence, child and spousal abuse was sparked by an inter-faith discussion group.
Speaking from a rest stop on Highway 97 south of Penticton, Soharwardy noted response from the people has been “very positive” as it has been during their time on the road.
He recalled an elderly fellow with a B.C. flag on his van that stopped the two of them earlier in the day.
“He stopped and said ÔI wanted to greet you guys because you’re going through my area,’” said Soharwardy adding they’ve received numerous horn honks and salutations from those supporting their cause.
Soharwardy said he felt that walking across the country was one of the most effective and peaceful ways of raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of using violence as a means of conflict resolution.
However because he was unable to secure any form of sponsorship or financial donations to get the walk moving he took a leave of absence from his job and secured a mortgage on his house, funding it out of his own pocket.
“I’m quite passionate about it,” he said. “And when you are passionate, you take action,” he said.
Saleh wanted to be a part of the walk because he felt overwhelmed about the way violence is depicted in the media, on TV and in video games.
“It’s a disturbing trend across the world,” said Saleh. “There are many other ways and means of resolving issues.”
The 32-year-old said aside from the challenge of the walk itself, he’s also found it to be rewarding, energizing and fulfilling.
The pair joked that the greatest obstacle they’ve encountered up to this point was in Northern Ontario when they nearly came face-to-face with a bear.
Following close behind on the roadways during their trek is Montreal resident Zaheer Sheikh who sits behind the wheel of the motorhome where the men rest and re-energize. The men have averaged anywhere from 30 to 45 kilometres per day and they’ve managed to wear out nine pairs of shoes.
On Monday they enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner in Olalla before hitting the trail again today.
When the walk wraps up about the end of October, Soharwardy said he plans to establish a group specifically to address issues around using violence as a form of conflict resolution. He would also like to set aside one day to hold an annual walk in other Canadian cities.
To find out more or make a donation to the walk visit www.walkagainstviolence.com.
Walking with Faith
Calgary leader continues cross-country trek against violence
By Katie Schneider, Sun Media
September 7, 2008
Plagued with killings and gunplay, this crime-ridden summer in Calgary is pushing a local Muslim leader to finish his trek across the country in his Multi-faith Walk Against Violence.
After walking more than 5,300 km through seven provinces, or about 45 km a day, during the cross-country walk he is leading, Imam Syed Soharwardy arrived in Calgary on Thursday and yesterday addressed a forum of other faith leaders at Eau Claire Market.
There he spoke to members of all religions about the walk, which began April 20 in Halifax and is scheduled to end in Victoria by the end of October, that has drawn attention to the fact violence does not stop at geographic borders.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Violence is the biggest issue of our time and people wave, honk and shout ‘thank you’ and ‘good luck.’
“It’s a common theme on a daily basis in all provinces.”
While Soharwardy has been away, 17 homicides have occurred in Calgary alone, adding to an already violent summer in Canada.
“When I was in Winnipeg, Tim McLean was slaughtered in a Greyhound bus … it happened near where I was,” he said. “Violence is rising in Calgary, as well — (while) it does create a lot of despair, it gives me a lot of hope there is a need to do this kind of project.”
And that reinforces his need to keep taking strides against violence during the walk.
“It shows all Canadians should stand up and stop it before it gets worse,” he said. “It pushes us more because it strengthens our resolve … it impacts every one of us.”
Members of all faiths have joined Soharwardy along his journey, which he embarked on again after the forum, heading to B.C. along the Trans-Canada Hwy.
Talking the Walk Against Violence
Muslim cleric attracts multifaith support
By Penney Kome
September 08, 2008
Imam Syed Soharwardy is no stranger to controversy. But the most public and sustained action he has ever taken, has aroused remarkably little attention. Since April 20, he has been walking across Canada to encourage leaders of all kinds of faith communities to speak out against violence. And leaders of all kinds of faith communities have been coming out to support him.
As the Imam’s Walk Against Violence passed through Calgary — his home town — he was feted at a public gathering that featured brief talks or letters from representatives of the Jewish, Sikh, Cambodian Christian and Buddhist, Anglican, Unitarian, and United Church communities, as well as social workers dealing with immigrant and especially African communities.
“Violence only occurs when there is a power struggle,” observed Dr Harjot Singh. “Sikhs have faced discrimination and violence” in pursuing their faith, she said. “The aim of this walk is to bring dialogue about violence, to deal with it on the individual level first, and then at the community, nation and world levels.”
“I grew up in a country that experienced war,” said social worker Pol Ngeth, originally from Cambodia, “and I work with newcomers fleeing from wars. Unhealed trauma can lead to violence.”
“Children who witness abuse are wounded for life,” said Dean Robert Pynn, a retired Anglican Archdeacon, pointing out that such children are liable to repeat the abusive behaviour when they become parents. Pynn and Soharwardy both serve on the Board of the Alliance Against Violence.
Pynn also helped create Homefront, an agency that works with families dealing with domestic violence, and that focuses on the offender. “We’ve reduced recidivism by two-thirds,” he said. An allied agency is Faithlink, which links clergy with social workers.
“In one survey, sixty percent of those asked said they would call on their faith community for help,” in event of domestic violence, said Linda White, Executive Director of the (Calgary) Alliance Against Violence. Hence, the need for organizations that provide resources for faith communities who need to help community members dealing with family violence.
“No one in the world wants family violence,” The Venerable Keo Hong (a Buddhist leader) said through his translator and assistant, Chang Son. “We must seek peace in ourselves to achieve peace in the world.”
Soharwardy is the founder of two Canadian organizations, the Islamic Supreme Council and Muslims Against Terrorism, but is perhaps best known for having brought a Human Rights Commission complaint againstWestern Standard publisher Ezra Levant, for re-printing the Danish cartoons about Islam that caused riots in Europe.
Soharwardy withdrew his complaint in late 2007, in the spirit of forgiveness associated with Christmas and the Muslim holiday Eid al Adh-ha. Interestingly enough, the purchaser and new publisher of the Western Standardpersonally called Soharwardy and apologized for the cartoons and especially for the vitriolic comments and death threats that readers posted to the Western Standard comments section.
Syed Soharwardy also serves on the Board of the Calgary Action Committee Against Violence, founded in 1991, which is about to re-launch as the Alliance Against Violence. At a Board meeting last fall, when people were brainstorming ways to raise awareness of the causes and effects of violence, he suggested a cross-Canada walk, something like what Terry Fox did.
“Everyone thought it was a great idea,” he said, “but nobody wanted to do it.” So Soharwardy went home and re-mortgaged his house to pay for the trip and the motor home that accompanies him. On April 20, he dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean in Halifax.
He intends to keep walking until he can dip his feet again in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria, probably on October 28. September brings a double challenge, because he must fast and observe the religious duties associated with Ramadan.
The Very Rev Robert Pynn has accompanied Soharwardy on parts of the journey. He said, “I want to thank Syed for revealing to us the heart of Islam. Syed says there is no place for violence in religion.”
Soharwardy said that he has been gratified by the positive reception he has found almost everywhere. “People were friendly even in Quebec, where ‘reasonable accommodation’ was a hot issue at the time,” he said. “Also, I went through a lot of reserves. The young people would wait by the side of the road to give us water.”
No matter what the Walk costs him — and he is still hoping that donations will cover most of the finances — Soharwardy still thinks the Walk makes an important statement. “Canadians have a special duty to speak out against violence,” he said, “because we are a peaceful people.”
Penney Kome is an award-winning author and journalist who has published six books with major publishers. She is also the Editor of Straight Goods.
Calgary Imam’s Cross-Canada Walk Reaches Alberta
Friday, August 29, 2008
Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy reached an emotional milestone in his cross-Canada Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence on Thursday.
At 7:30 a.m., Soharwardy crossed the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, setting off an impromptu celebration.
“It was absolutely the greatest feeling I’ve had during the whole walk,” said Soharwardy, 53. “I felt like I was coming home.”
Soharwardy began his walk April 20 in Halifax and has since covered more than 5,000 kilometres. He’s hoping the walk draws attention to the scourge of violence, both in domestic and international settings.
“I’m expecting a number of pastors and lay people from Christian churches in the Medicine Hat and Redcliff areas to join me walking,” he said.
The imam is targeting a Calgary arrival for next Thursday. Representatives from a number of city faith communities are expected to join him as he nears the city limits.
An interfaith rally is planned for Sept. 6 outside the Eau Claire Market.
With next week’s start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which requires fasting from sunrise to sunset, Soharwardy says he’ll alter his walking schedule to conform to the personal discipline required. He’s hoping to reach Victoria by late October or November.
Cross-Country Trekkers Mending the World Their Way
Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald
Friday, August 15, 2008
Last week, a letter writer asked what Calgary imam Syed Soharwardy thinks he can possibly accomplish with his cross-Canada multi-faith walk against violence. The writer suggested that Soharwardy is wasting his time, because violent people couldn’t care less about his walk or what he has to say on the subject.
Soharwardy isn’t the only person with a cause who is trekking across the country just now. In fact, he may very well have crossed paths somewhere along the way with Ramesh Ferris, who started in Victoria (Soharwardy’s journey began in Halifax), and passed through Ottawa this week on his Cycle to Walk.
Ferris’s cause is polio and his aim is to “raise funds and awareness to forward the global eradication of polio, to educate about the continuing need for immunization against polio and to support the rehabilitation of polio survivors in poor countries.” Ferris, 28, is a polio survivor adopted from India in 1982 by Canadian parents. He walks with crutches and braces, and is travelling across Canada on his 27-speed hand cycle, as he can’t pedal in the conventional way.
Some cross-Canada trekkers aren’t even Canadian. Ming Jiing Hsieh, who is from Taiwan, is cycling across Canada to raise money for international disaster relief, which is being channelled through World
Vision. Hsieh, heading east, recently reached Stonewall, Man., around the same time Soharwardy was traversing the area. Meanwhile, in June, Amherstburg, Ont., residents Greg Mailloux and Vin Heney left Victoria to cross Canada on their bikes to “promote environmental sustainability and raise funds for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.”
Some people might say that what Terry Fox started with his Marathon of Hope in 1980 has gotten to be a bit much, what with all this criss-crossing of Canada in the name of countless worthy causes. That’s a jaded way to look at it. The other way is to ask “what if?” What if Terry Fox had lain in bed and said to himself, “I can’t be bothered. Nothing will come of it anyway. What good will it do?”
Reached on his cellphone Wednesday as he was preparing to cross the Manitoba border into Saskatchewan, Soharwardy recalled the emotional moment he spent at Terry Fox’s statue the day he passed through Thunder Bay, Ont..
“There were nine or 10 people there — Unitarian, Jewish, Buddhist. We all stood near the statue. It brought some sort of feeling in our heart to think of this young guy who stood up to cancer. We are trying to walk in his shoes,” Soharwardy said.
What Terry did, what Soharwardy is doing, what all these people who run, cycle, walk or otherwise travel the Trans-Canada Highway for a particular cause do, is called tikkun olam in the Jewish faith.
Tikkun olam means mending the world and Jews believe everyone has a duty to do this. It’s an obligation to do constant mending to keep the world from falling into greater disrepair — to put good back in, to fill the spaces where pain, injustice and other evils might otherwise take root.
“We can’t eliminate violence, but we can reduce it,” Soharwardy said. He was a few kilometres west of Winnipeg when he heard about the killing of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus just ahead on the Trans-Canada, nearPortage la Prairie. Someone asked him if he was embarrassed by the irony of his walk against violence being in proximity with this terrible crime — didn’t it prove the fruitlessness of his venture?
“I was not embarrassed. I felt despair and hope. The killing of this young man strengthens my resolve,” Soharwardy said. He sees it like this: When we say or do nothing, when we simply absorb violence out of fear, as when the victims of domestic abuse are afraid to expose their abusers, then we are enabling more violence.
“To stop violence, to not accept violence — one person has to stand up and speak against it,” he said.
In one aspect, Soharwardy agrees with the letter writer. “We’re not able to change the whole world,” he said. But he feels that if he’s changed one person, enabling that individual to say no to whatever form of violence he or she may be personally experiencing, then his walk is a success. That’s tikkun olam. You do what you can. As Ming Jiing Hsieh told the weekly Stonewall Argus about his disaster relief cycling tour: “If I can help people, that’s happiness.”
Where else but Canada does an imam walk across the country, practising a tenet of the Jewish faith? Some days, it seems like peace may not be such an impossible dream after all.
Rev. Shawn Ankenmann, Brandon, Manitoba
August 12, 2008
Every once in a while you meet someone who leaves an indelible impression upon you … in memorials I have often used a reading from Jacob the Baker by Noah benShea that tells of a proud and arrogant man coming to the humble and quiet Jacob in his bakery.
The man says – “Jacob, I want my life to leave an impression on others …”
Jacob continues working preparing his bread and says, “All life leaves an impression … for we are God’s finger prints …”
Like all good rabbinic stories, we don’t know what the man did with the lesson, nor do we know what others will do with it, we can only use the lesson to reflect on it for ourselves and consider how we will LIVE out the lesson …
For me, I frequently think about the HOW of my life leaving impressions on others … Taking the role of being God’s presence in the world is an awesome responsibility – one I’ve always taken seriously. I have been far from perfect, and I’ve made more than my share of mistakes, but my heart has always been yearning to leave a good and faithful impression on others, even in those moments when my enthusiasm has gotten ahead of myself …
This past week I was both blessed and privileged to meet a gentleman who has embodied in a very real way the concept of being God’s finger print in the world …
Syed Soharwardy is a gentle soft spoken man with a steely resolve, a gentle humour and a deep faith-filled wisdom that he willingly shares with anyone who takes the time to stop and talk with him, or even better, to walk along the side of the highway with him …
Yesterday morning, I very briefly accompanied him as he began his daily walk … we chatted briefly before I bid him well for the day and we departed … watching him walk along the margin of the Trans Canada Hwy left me with the realization that my life is better for having shared, even briefly, in this remarkable man’s journey …
Syed is not looking for money … he is not looking for fame … he is looking for like minded people who share is abhorrence of violence, and who, like him want to see our world become a better place with more than just an absence of conflict and violence … in the fullest spirit of Shalom/Salaam/Peace, Syed seeks a God given peace that surpasses all understanding, and transforms our world into the place, God willing it could and should be …
One step at a time, this gentle man is doing his part … and he is inspiring others to do the same …
Thanks for stopping by Syed … it was good to meet you … and it was a joy and a treat to host you and Hassaan, Yassir and Haris in my home … Go with God !!
Last night’s dinner …
The menu was a selection of vegetarian, Halal (Islamic Kosher), and Celiac appropriate foods:
– spinach salad with fresh strawberries, kiwi, and almonds with a lemon-honey dressing
– tabhouli made with brown rice rather than bulgar
– five bean salad
– bean casserole with cheese and tomato sauce
– garden fresh yellow beans in dill
– baba ghanouj
– fresh fruit
– baked wild BC salmon in a brown sugar, soya sauce and onion glaze
The guests were Syed Soharwardy and his three travelling companions on the Multi-faith Walk against Violence, as well as my co-worker and her son.
Syed, Hassaan, Yasir and Haris came for dinner and a visit before we headed down town for a planned gathering at Brandon’s Helping Hands Soup Kitchen to help spread the word of his cross Canada walk to raise awareness on the issue of violence of EVERY kind in our world …
The conversation around a tiny very CROWDED living room was delightful … nine people packed in a space that is 10′ x 12′ could have been uncomfortable, but a good time was had by all … and no one left the table with an empty tummy .
Downtown after dinner, Syed did interviews with a variety of media outlets in the Brandon area before heading to the City Hall grounds to participate in the vigil to honour Tim McLean …
Best Wishes Syed, on your walk, and on raising awareness of this important issue ..
A Gift of Peace over Lunch …
Today for lunch The Brandon Rotary Club hosted Syed Soharwardy as their guest speaker. Syed along with Hassaan, Yasir, and Haris, came and shared reflections on his journey and answered some questions from the assembled group.
Along the way he commented that he believes that:
– we live in a very blessed country with strong feelings of meaning and harmony no matter where you are, and that Canadians have been blessed by God/Allah with understanding, tolerance and a caring acceptance of others, even those who are different
– we live in a great nation
– the greatest cause of violence is the simple lack of communication – between parents, between parents and children, and between people
– that if we are to have an end to violence we must begin with peace in our home that comes from peace in our hearts, and the peace in our homes will create peace in our communities, and peace in our communities will create peace in our world – between nations and people, and it all depends upon peace in our hearts
– the biggest single cause of violence in our world is ignorance and ILLITERACY – he noted that many in our world act from hate because they are unable to experience the fullness of life offered through literacy … I commented to a fellow Rotarian that Syed’s view fits well with the emphasis of Rotary International on Literacy …
In the tradition of sharing a meal – a custom that unites all of humanity – Syed and his team came and sat at table with The Brandon Rotary Club and shared his experiences, and offered his wisdom and humour, and continued on his walk westward – promoting the cause of non-violence with each step.
And I for one am glad that along the way he stopped long enough to form a new friendship – one I will cherish … I wished the men well on their journey and left them with the offer of a place to stay if they happen back this way again … I hope they do …
In the meantime – for more on Syed, and his journey and the cause of Stopping Violence – check out some of the links below:
The CBC story that started this ALL (click here)
The web page of the Multi-faith walk against violence (click here)
The web page of Syed’s group Muslims against Terrorism (click here)
A Matter of Faith
Walking it Off
One man’s statement against violence and stereotype
By Teenaz Javat, CBC News
August 1, 2008
“Walking is a very good exercise, and that is exactly what I am doing for my physical and spiritual well-being.”
With those words, Syed Soharwardy began his Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence in April 2008. What makes this walk different is that it is 6,800 kilometres long and stretches five time zones across Canada — fromHalifax, N.S., to Victoria, B.C.
It also appears to be a deeply personal journey. An active member of Calgary’s interfaith community, Soharwardy is not soliciting support or donations for any particular cause as he makes his way across the country.
A married father of two teenagers, he has remortgaged his Calgary home to help pay for this adventure, and all he seems to be seeking out along the way are like-minded people with whom to share his views and talk about their commonalities.
“My grandfather was a mufti (high priest) in Kashmir, and my father was a religious leader in Pakistan,” Soharwardy says. “Though I have never faced persecution, I have personally witnessed so much violence in these two regions, and I have made it my mission to stop violence everywhere, be it in school, bullying, gangs, child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence or terrorism.
“This walk is my physical and spiritual journey in an attempt at uniting Canadians against all forms of violence.”
As of July 27, he had crossed the Ontario-Manitoba border and was closing in on Winnipeg.
Walking for change
The seeds of this journey began about 14 years ago. Having settled in Calgary, Soharwardy says, he gradually grew “upset at the way the Islamic world was publicized by the media, just as one monolithic mass. The diversity in Islam was not recognized simply because people did not know enough about us to form an opinion.
“So, I realized the best way to go about it is to start a group and talk about the similarities that all religions have instead of the differences.”
A volunteer imam at Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, where he often helps organize celebrations of Jewish holidays, Soharwardy was the driving force behind the group Muslims Against Terrorism, which was conceived in 1998 and now has 13 chapters all over the world.
A key factor in Soharwardy’s decision to organize the walk, according to long-time friend Linda Zachri, was the December 2007 slaying of a 16-year-old Mississauga girl, allegedly by her father and brother, following what was said to be a dispute over wearing traditional Muslim headdress.
“Syed went on a long fast as a protest not only against what had happened but how the entire Muslim community was being painted with the same brush,” said Zachri, who helps Soharwardy with his website.
“He wanted to highlight the fact that people within his community do not seek outside help. It was an intergenerational problem gone awfully wrong, and it was then that he decided to bring an end to all violence front and centre, and what better way than to walk against it.”
Remortgaged his house
Holding two master’s degrees in the field of information technology and project management, Soharwardy did not wait to raise money from donors.
Instead, he remortgaged his house and used the money to buy an RV so that he could rest in the night while he walked in the day.
“My job in IT feeds me and my family in a physical way, and my walking nurtures me in a profoundly spiritual way,” Soharwardy said. “It took me one year to convince my wife that it was a good idea.”
As he walks for approximately 40 km a day, his RV is driven by volunteers who fly in from Calgary on a three-week rotation.
“Most of my volunteer drivers are from Calgary. They fly into the city with the nearest airport from where I have stopped to take over from the current driver. As for my walk, a rabbi, a pastor from the Anglican church, a Catholic priest [and]an RCMP [officer]in civilian clothes are among several [people]who have joined me and walked with me,” he said.
Warm welcome in Kingston
“The reception I received in Kingston seemed the high point of the walk so far,” Soharwardy says. “As I walk, I do not represent any religion. I represent the multi-faith community, so when I reached Kingston, the mayor ofKingston, members of the Jewish, Anglican and Bahai communities all came out to greet me.
“We had a brief ceremony, after which I feel more stronger than ever that together we can fight violence.”
The walk commenced in Halifax on April 20, 2008, with Soharwardy dipping his feet into the Atlantic Ocean at Lower Water Street and is to end sometime in October 2008 in Victoria, B.C., when he reaches the Mile Zero marker in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.
Over the summer, his son is going to join him somewhere in Manitoba. By the time he is scheduled to reach Winnipeg on Aug. 5, he will have covered a distance of 4,000 kilometres.
A close encounter with a bear, a breakdown of his RV and a case of sunstroke that landed him in the emergency room are some of the setbacks he has encountered so far. Still, he trudges on.
Slayings stiffen resolve to overcome violence
Muslim Leader ‘Delighted by the Reaction I’ve Got’
Graeme Morton, Calgary Herald
August 01, 2008
The Calgary imam walking across Canada to protest violence says he despairs when he hears of this city’s recent spate of homicides and Wednesday’s horrific murder on a bus in Manitoba.
But Syed Soharwardy says the disturbing headlines also strengthen his resolve to speak out against violence here and abroad.
“We have to stand up and say we will not accept this trend,” said Soharwardy, at home for a brief break from his epic journey, which began April 20 on the Halifax docks.
“Faith leaders have to make this a priority, to talk to their congregations about the issues of violence openly, frankly and frequently,” he said.
Soharwardy had completed more than 3,800 kilometres when he stopped earlier this week near Falcon Lake, in eastern Manitoba. He’ll fly back to Winnipeg on the weekend and resume his walk Monday morning, joined in August by his 16-year-old son Hassaan.
While he has walked many of those 3,800 kilometres accompanied only by the driver of his support RV, Soharwardy said he was delighted to have been joined briefly by clergy as well as countless strangers from many towns he has passed through.
“It’s been very much a learning process as we’ve gone along. First, we just followed maps. But now we rely on information from local people as to the shortest routes and the best opportunities to meet the most people,” said Soharwardy, 53.
“And I’ve been delighted by the reaction I’ve got, especially in rural areas and small towns. I thought we might run into a few people who wouldn’t like me because of my colour or my religion, but it’s all been positive.”
Soharwardy has worn out four pairs of walking shoes and lost weight during his three-plus months on the road, but said the only time he considered quitting was after suffering debilitating heat stroke near Barrie, Ont.
“I talked to my wife on the phone and she gently said to me, ‘No, just take a couple of days off to rest and keep going,’ ” he said.
Soharwardy has mortgaged his family home to finance the campaign and says fuel for the RV, which he also uses for accommodation, is gobbling up big chunks of the projected budget.
“We have to fill it up every three days or so at a cost of about $250 to $270,” Soharwardy said.
A project manager in civilian life, he has put his career and spiritual leadership role with local Muslims on hold.
“We’ll sell the RV at the end of the walk to help cover some costs. There will be debt, but hopefully not too bad,” said Soharwardy.
“I had a woman stop and give me a quarter. She said that’s all she could afford, but that she supported what I was doing, which touched me.”
Soharwardy plans to increase his pace to about 45 kilometres a day across the flat Prairies. He hopes to reach Calgary by early September. He’ll be joined by a number of local religious leaders as he nears the city.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when worshippers fast from sunrise to sunset, begins Sept. 2. Soharwardy said he’ll have to reassess how he’ll be able to keep up a rigorous walk within those requirements. He hopes to complete his walk in late October in Victoria, but that date may be pushed back.
Soharwardy plans to write a book about his experiences on the road and his hopes for a more peaceful world.
“I want to talk about bringing people of faith together in this effort to reduce violence and to live in harmony,” said Soharwardy.
“But this walk, being out in nature every day, has also made me a lot more sensitive to the environment. It’s a very spiritual thing, to be better connected to this beautiful creation that God has given us.”
Taking Steps Against Violence, Conflict
Calgary Imam Spreads Message on Cross-Country Walk
Michelle Butterfield, Calgary Herald
July 14, 2008
Each time Syed Soharwardy speaks to his family in Calgary, he tells them: “Every step I take brings me closer back to you.”
Despite missing his wife, children and the comforts of home, step-by-step the imam has been walking across the country; speaking out against violence, and raising awareness about the importance of dialogue in solving conflicts.
Departing Halifax on April 20, he passed the 3,000 kilometre mark on his Multi-faith Walk Against Violence last week, and has faced his fair share of challenges.
“It’s been a very interesting journey, so far,” said Soharwardy from just outside Nipigon, Ont., on Saturday.
A close encounter with an aggressive bear, a breakdown of their tour vehicle, an injured foot and severe sunstroke have been a few of the minor setbacks, but not enough to stop Soharwardy.
“This is the first time in the history of Canada a Muslim has walked across the country, and that feels pretty special to me,” he said.
But it’s not the walk itself that holds significance for Soharwardy.
Rather, it’s the message he is working to spread, stops along the way, touching the hearts of the people he meets and relaying a message of non-violence and peace among all people — regardless of religion, race or heritage.
He is not walking to raise money, unlike the hundreds of cyclists and runners he has met along the route.
“We all stand together and I feel it is my job to tell people that.”
Much of the time he walks with just one other person — a volunteer and friend who has joined him — but often walks a few kilometres with religious leaders, town officials or supportive people he meets along the way.
He has also been greeted along the Trans-Canada Highway by people hoping to help fund the walk.
In Nova Scotia, an older lady was waiting on her front lawn with her chequebook. She approached Soharwardy, explaining that she was a poor woman and could not afford much, but writing him a cheque for $100 and asking that he not cash it for a few weeks so it didn’t bounce.
He expects to reach Calgary during the first week of September. He’ll sleep in his own bed for a night before continuing to Vancouver.
Calgary Imam Gets Unique Perspective of Canadians as He Walks Across Country
By Bill Graveland
(June 27, 2008) — Step-by-step, kilometre-by-kilometre a Calgary imam is getting a unique perspective of our country in his multi-faith walk against violence.
Syed Soharwardy, 52, began a cross-country journey from Halifax on April 20.
The founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Muslims Against Terrorism decided to do the walk as a protest against all forms of violence, including child and domestic abuse, terrorism, gangs, bullying and elder abuse.
Along the way, he says, he has encountered the good side of Canadians in terms of tolerance and acceptance.
“It is more educational to me than anything else,’’ he said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press as he reached the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
“It gave me a picture of what Canadians are, what they are all about and they are such a nice people. I did not find a single person who would come to me and say, `You are wrong. You are a Muslim. You are a brown guy. Get out from here.’
“So far, with the journey half over, I have not seen a single (bad) person or had a bad experience.’’
Soharwardy, who was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, has been an outspoken critic of international terrorism and any kind of violence. He is also a long-time participant in interfaith groups that share a similar stand against aggression.
“My biggest nightmare before I started was Quebec because I do not know French,’’ he said. “I had this big stereotype about francophones and they don’t speak English.
“But I tell you, I got more love in Quebec than any other place. I said to my wife, `If God gives me a little money, I will buy a house in Quebec.’
“They were not able to speak English and I was not able to speak French, but they gave me a very good, warm feeling just through their body language and handshakes.’’
At a pace of about 35 kilometres a day, he hopes to finish his trek in Victoria sometime in October. The walk is taking its toll, however. As he neared Sault Ste. Marie, his right foot was in considerable pain and he was planning to put ice bags on it for relief.
Soharwardy is accompanied by a couple of volunteers, one of whom drives the RV that trails behind him with a sign proclaiming “Multi-faith Walk Against Violence.’’
His journey was more than a year in the planning and he refinanced the mortgage on his Calgary house to cover the $250,000 to $300,000 in expenses.
But he says the sacrifices are worth it and he believes he can reach more Canadians on the walk than he could visiting regular worshippers in churches, mosques and synagogues combined.
“Some people justify violence based on religion. This shows every religion, including Islam, is against violence.’’
In addition to his opportunity to meet and hold rallies with Canadians across the country, Soharwardy is also getting a chance to see the scenery close-up.
“It’s absolutely marvellous. It’s beautiful. There are so many lakes and green lush forest here.
“But then there’s the reality that there are so many mosquitoes and black flies — there are more mosquitoes than Canadians in Canada.’’
He Re-Mortgaged his House. to Take a Walk
By Donna Hopper
Monday, June 30, 2008
It took him a year to convince his wife it was a good idea.
Syed Soharwardy, the 52-year-old imam who founded Muslims Against Terrorism and currently serves as president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, re-mortgaged his house to finance his Multi Faith Walk Against Violence in Halifax.
Soharwardy began walking in Halifax on April 20.
He estimates $200,000 will be spent by the end of it all.
The Islamic spiritual leader has long encouraged and engaged in open interfaith dialogues in churches, mosques and synagogues.
Inspired by the likes of Terry Fox, the Multi Faith Walk Against Violence was birthed from his desire to present his message of solidarity and non-violence to a larger, more diverse audience.
“Violence isn’t a community problem,” Soharwardy told SooToday.com. “It’s a human problem.”
Last night, Soharwardy, along with volunteers, other walkers and supporters from the community, gathered for a potluck supper in Bellevue Park.
He told us the response from the Canadian public along the “road of companionship” has been “absolutely and overwhelmingly positive.”
People have been encouraging him by waving, honking, joining portions of the walk, and thanking him personally for his message and inspiration.
He invites everyone to join him on his walk, even for a short distance.
Walking an average of 35-40 kilometers a day, Soharwardy hopes to conclude his cross-Canada odyssey in Victoria, B.C. by the end of October.
Donations, currently accepted at all TD Canada Trust locations, may also be mailed to:
15205 Park Lane N.W.
For more information about the Multi Faith Walk Against Violence, visit the official website.
Walking for Peace
Angela Pezzotti for SooNews.ca
June 29, 2008, 4:50PM
Syed Soharwardy put his ideas into action this summer when he began his Multi Faith Walk Against Violence. Soharwardy is very active in the Multi Faith community and he wanted to widen the audience for his message of peace beyond the mosques, churches and synagogues he visited so on April 20th in Halifax Nova Scotia he began his cross country walk.
Soharwardy wanted to meet people directly to get a first hand account of how violence had affected their lives and hear their solutions to ending violent behaviour. “I wanted to sit with people and hear their stories. And educate people that violence is wrong.”
“Violence starts from home, domestic violence child abuse, elderly abuse, bullying, terrorism.” says Soharwardly who is founder of Muslims Against Terrorism, he believes that all forms of violence are terrorism and is rooted in domestic violence. “I strongly believe that if person has peace at home they are not violent in the community, if our communities are not violent, are countries will not be violent. Domestic violence is one of the major causes creating fanatical behaviour in all religions and cultures”
People from different faiths have joined Soharwardy on his journey, some for a few minutes or a few days, but he says everyone says the same thing “Violence is wrong in my religion, violence is wrong in your religion why can’t we stop it.” Soharwardy says that those that commit violence in the name in any religion are misinterpreting scripture. But there are extremists in all religions and 99 percent of people are peace loving.
Response to the walk has been “overwhelming positive” Soharwardy says, “People honk and wave, others stop and talk with us or offer donations. No one has said we are wasting our time.” Soharwardy mortgaged his home and established a line of credit to fund the walk. “It is the most important issue of our time. We need to get along and understand each others humanity.” Soharwardy has committed to walking the entire length of the country he has been joined by a number of volunteers who walk for a few weeks.
Haris Seleh began the walk in Halifax with Soharwardy left in Quebec and re-joined in Toronto. He hopes to continue with the walk until their final stop in Victoria B.C. he’s finding it very educational and enjoys meeting the people that come out everyday to support their message. Seleh believes that the media plays a part in our tendency to violence he saying that it sends a subconscious message that violence is answer to problems. “Violence doesn’t solve problems” says Seleh he wants to inspire people to find other options to solving their problems.
Ysir Saleah believes in the cause so much he is spending his summer vacation with the walk He’s been walking for about a week joining the journey in Toronto he will spend two months with the group. “We need to promote this (peace) on a daily basis and live it in our lives.”
Naveed Azam was driving the accompanying RV when Soonews spoke to the group. He joined the walk in Sudbury and will be with them until Thunder Bay. He’s enjoying his time with the journey. Driving duties are shared among the group.
Soharwardy thinks Canada stands as an excellent example of peace to the world. “We have different religions and cultures that live side by side we are a non-violent country.” He is very aware that violence exists in Canadaand acknowledges that there is a lot of work to do especially in the area of domestic abuse but he is confident that awareness will create the attitude that “Violent behaviour is not acceptable and it should stop.”
The group will call Sault Ste Marie base for the next few days. Each day they walk about thirty five to forty kilometres the RV then picks them up and returns them to that point the next day. The walk will conclude inVictoria some time in early November.
If you would like to know more about the Multi Faith Walk Against Violence Click Here
Donations are accepted at all TD Canada Trust locations
deposit to A/C 8063900480635228516
Cheques can be mailed to: 15205 Park Lane N.W. Calgary AB T3P 1A6
Picture: Yasir Saleh, Syed Soharwardy, Haris Seleh, Naveed Azam
Keeping the Faith
Anti-Violence Trek Nears Halfway Point
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Calgary Muslim imam Syed Soharwardy is closing in on the halfway mark of his cross-Canada Multifaith Walk Against Violence.
Soharwardy is in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. this weekend, about 2,600 kilometres into his epic walk from Halifax to Victoria, which is expected to wrap up in November.
“I’m firmly convinced our efforts are paying off,” says Soharwardy.
“The whole purpose of this campaign is to create awareness of the toll that violence takes, both in our homes and in our world. And the message is getting out there.”
Soharwardy says he had a particularly warm reception when he passed through the Garden River First Nations reserve just east of the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
A telethon will be held today at noon Calgary time on the Vision of Pakistan program on Vision TV. Pledges will help defray the costs of Soharwardy’s national campaign, estimated at more than $250,000.
Soharwardy is nursing a sore foot after walking on a sharply-banked highway shoulder for a full day earlier this week. He’ll take a brief break from the road to fly to Ottawa Monday to spend Canada Day in the nation’s capital.
Calgarian on Walk Against Terrorism
June 25, 2008
Calgarian Syed Soharwardy is just north of Sudbury, Ontario in a bid to walk across the country and make a statement against terrorism.
As the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism, Soharwardy began walking on April 20, 2008 and will end in Victoria in November. He is part of the Multi Faith Walk Against Violence, which began on April 20th 2008 fromHalifax. The walk will end in Victoria in November, 2008 while Soharwardy also fasts for Ramadan.
Soharwardy is part of a Calgary-based group entitled Muslims Against Terrorism. Spokesperson Atthar Mahmood says Soharwardy is back on the road after passing out from dehydration and fatigue a few days earlier.
Both men are Canadians born in Pakistan, and are passionate about educating other faiths about Islam, and condemning all forms of violence.
“The Koran does not support any violence,” Mahmood says. “Our mosque is open to all faiths, we will tell you about what Islam is, and the teaching of The Prophet Mohammed (SAW).”
Cross-Canada Walker Fights Violence
Calgary Imam Battles ‘Horrible Thing’
By Brian Kelly, The Sault Star
June 22, 2008
Syed Soharwardy has spoken out against violence for years.
Now, he’s walking the walk to back up his anti-violence stance.
The Calgary imam is a long-time participant in interfaith groups that share a similar stance against aggression.
But in 2007 he considered a cross-country walk would reach more Canadians than just regular worshippers at churches, mosques and synagogues.
“We said let’s do something bigger and broader and longer,” said Soharwardy while walking on Highway 17 just west of Sudbury Saturday.
“I felt very compelled that this is the best thing we could do to draw attention and create awareness about the dangers of violence. It was my idea so I became it.”
His Multifaith Walk Against Violence started in Halifax, N.S., on April 20.
Soharwardy expects to arrive in Sault Ste. Marie Saturday.
The perils of raising one’s fist, or taking up arms, are many, he says. People risk injury, death, damaged property and broken relationships.
“It’s absolutely a horrible thing for our community if we are facing any form of violence,” he said.
“(Different faiths) all stand together when it comes to violence. We all condemn it and we all denounce it. We will work together to fight against violence.”
Soharwardy is regularly joined by supporters along the way. In Sudbury, he walked with Rev. Jim Hutton, a former pastor of Precious Blood Cathedral, and the co-ordinators of the Sudbury Interfaith Dialogue in theNickel City.
Hutton, who now serves at St. Patrick’s parish in Sudbury, says Soharwardy is “trying to give a better impression” of the Muslim faith.
“The Muslim people in North America don’t have a very good image, unfortunately, because of the fanatical approach of some of the people who say they are Muslim and use that as a veil to create terrorism and fear,” he said.
“The Muslim people are, I think, in many ways experiencing prejudice unjustified in our culture. They’re hurting. They’re suffering. The ones that I know are very peace-loving people. They’re happy to be in a multicultural society like Canada. They don’t want to hurt people. They just want to live like everybody else.”
Soharwardy, 52, suggests his walk is changing attitudes of the people he meets including a young Quebec man who was abused by his mother growing up. The pair talked as Soharwardy walked along a highway in that province.
“Those who come into contact with us, those who see me on the highway and talk to me, they realize (violence) is wrong,” he said.
“They go and tell other people. I think we are making a difference. It may be a small difference, but I’m hoping by the end of this walk it will become a significant difference in creating awareness about the dangers of violence.”
On the web: www.walkagainstviolence.com
Anti- Violence Walk Draws Support
Graeme Morton, Calgary Herald
June 07, 2008
A Calgary Muslim imam and outspoken activist is hoping to reach Toronto today in his cross-Canada Multifaith Walk Against Violence.
Syed Soharwardy left Halifax on April 20 and has been averaging 35 to 40 kilometres each day in his seven-plus weeks on the long and winding road.
He plans to cross the Saskatchewan-Alberta border by early September and complete his campaign in Victoria in November.
Soharwardy says he wants to draw the collective attention of Canadians to the destructive toll of violence, whether it happens behind the doors of a private home or explodes on the global stage.
“We want people to think and to speak out against domestic abuse that targets children and women as well as international terrorism and the suicide bombers,” Soharwardy says.
“The culture of violence that can start in a home continues on into the community, the nation and eventually, the world. We have to talk about it and stop it.”
Soharwardy says the first week of pavement pounding through the Maritimes was the hardest on his body.
“By the third week, my body was getting a little more used to it. At the end of every day, I’m absolutely tired, but by the next morning I feel refreshed and motivated to walk again.”
Soharwardy calls this campaign the most educational and inspirational project he’s ever tackled.
“About three days ago, we went through a Mohawk (aboriginal) territory. They had never heard of me, but when they saw me and our banner they came out to shake hands, give me water and take pictures,” says Soharwardy over his cellphone as he trudged through the rain near the central Ontario town of Grafton.
“I was a little worried in Quebec. I don’t know French and many of the people I met couldn’t speak English, but I could certainly read their encouraging expressions and body language.”
Soharwardy is often alone with his thoughts, meditations and prayers, accompanied only by Calgarian Asghar Ali, who is driving the campaign’s support vehicle.
But he’s been joined for short distances by individuals and members of faith communities in the towns he passes through.
“I’ve had people come out of their homes and farms, even stop their cars and walk for a little while with me,” says Soharwardy.
“In Kingston, we had people from about four or five different religions, the mayor and the Speaker of the House of Commons come out to our meeting,” he adds.
Soharwardy says a rally is planned for Toronto’s Queen’s Park tomorrow afternoon. “I think I’m doing something useful here.”
Idealist on the Hoof Brings Non-Violence Message to Kingston
By Dr. John Cowan
Principal Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston
The Kingston Whig-Standard
May 28, 2008
This Friday, the Across Canada Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence will reach Kingston on a trek that began in Halifax on April 20 and aims to reach Victoria by some time in October. Its intent is to raise awareness and to unite Canadians against the full spectrum of violent behaviours, from child abuse and domestic violence to gang violence and terrorism. Leaders and representatives of many faith communities have been participating, with each making their own resolutions as to the distances they should walk. The project has involved Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and representatives of aboriginal communities, but the driving force behind it, and the one person who is committed to walking every step of the journey, is Syed Soharwardy, a most unusual imam from Calgary.
It’s hard to doubt the genuineness of his efforts. His personal commitment has been extraordinary; he mortgaged his home to finance the Walk Against Violence. Furthermore, he has a proven track record in opposing violence and is the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism.
Originally from Pakistan, Soharwardy has two North American master’s degrees in the information technology and project management field, and it’s his information technologyproject management work that pays the bills. But his involvement in religion seemed inevitable. His grandfather was Grand Mufti of Kashmir, and his father a famous religious leader in Pakistan.
Like many Sunni Muslims who adhere to Sufi practices, Soharwardy is remarkably modernist and heavily into bridge-building with other communities. Indeed, the mosque he leads in Calgary may be the only one in Canadathat has celebrated various Jewish festivals.
And there is a Kingston connection. About a year ago, I got a scathing letter from Soharwardy complaining bitterly about a scholarly
article on military history written by one of the Royal Military College’s adjunct faculty members. I replied, defending the author and the article. Syed wrote back, having converged somewhat with my view, but by no means completely.
It seemed to me that either we could write letters to each other for months trying to reach agreement or I could just phone him, which I did. It was a much better conversation than anticipated, and I invited him to RMC. Last fall, he visited, staying at my home and meeting many RMC faculty and students. He also gave a pretty gutsy talk to a large group of officer cadets and other RMC folk.
While the talk covered much ground, including considerable praise for the work of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the central feature of his talk was his intense and unremitting criticism of any Muslims who use Islam as a justification for violent action. He characterized them as being mostly political opportunists of the most odious sort, acting from personal ulterior motives, though he did allow that some were perhaps just misguided and some others thoroughly delusional. He viewed them all as acting or speaking contrary to the core values of his faith.
Every now and then since 9/11, there have been musings in the media about why the moderate or antiviolence voices in the Muslim community weren’t louder or more explicit. Well, you couldn’t get much more explicit than Syed Soharwardy.
And this unusual campaigner is also unusually frank about admitting to the occasional mistake. When Western Standard magazine reprinted the Danish cartoons containing unflattering depictions of Muhammad, Soharwardy feared that the attitudes they fostered might alienate the youths of his community from the Canadian mainstream, and so he became one of those who
complained about the reprinting to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
But the recent controversies about the role of human rights commissions and concerns about their potential to encroach upon free speech caused Soharwardy to rethink the matter. Some months ago, after consulting widely (including asking my opinion), he publicly withdrew his complaint, explaining that he had come to the conclusion that “the court of public opinion” was the only logical place to settle issues of appropriate speech, and that human rights commissions might better stick with their more traditional role with respect to discrimination on prohibited grounds in employment, housing and services.
Soharwardy is very Canadian. He thinks and talks a lot about his love of Canada and his admiration for its values. And, like other Canadians, he’s been struggling to understand their precise application. But unlike so many, he’s paid his dues, and when his Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence passes through Kingston, he deserves a hearing.
– John Scott Cowan is principal of the Royal Military College of Canada.
The Path to Peace
Cross-Country Walk Draws Attention to Violence
The Truro Daily News
May 23, 2008
TRURO – How far would you go to denounce violence?
Syed Soharwardy is walking from Halifax to Victoria, B.C. on a trek dubbed the Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence.
The middle-aged consultant and volunteer imam from Calgary made a brief stop in Truro yesterday, just long enough to have some lunch and shake a few hands.
“Walking gives me the opportunity to talk with people who I’ve never met before and may never meet again. It gives me first hand opportunity to talk with them about violence and share in their stories,” said Soharwardy.
Speaking out against violence to people in churches, synagogues and mosques is limited in scope, you can only reach so many people this way. By walking across the country you can draw national attention to your cause, he said.
It was only three days ago that he dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean and started his journey, but already you can see people reacting to the cause, he said.
“God bless you on your walk,” said one man as he drove by Soharwardy.
As Soharwardy was walking through Hilden early yesterday morning, an elderly man came out of his house to greet him. He wanted to get his picture taken with Soharwardy, gave him a hug and thanked him for doing what he’s doing.
“He hugged me. I was a complete stranger for him but that showed his love, his respect, I was quite touched,” he said.
He’s trying to walk roughly 35 to 45 kilometers a day, which means he should reach Victoria in about seven months. He’s taking secondary highways on his travels and he’s hoping to encounter more people this way.
A crew of three are following him in an RV while his family and another small crew monitor his progress from Calgary.
“Our target is youth. If we can change one mind about using violence then we have achieved our goal. If we can change more, then that is a bonus.”
The Road is Open
Calgary Man Walking Across Nation for Violence Awareness
BY Raissa Tetanish
The Amherst Daily News
May 7, 2008
AMHERST – Out of the millions of people Syed Soharwardy will meet on his journey, if at least one person thinks twice about using violence, he will have achieved what he set out to do.
“What we see around the world in domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and different forms of abuse such as bullying and gangs, there has been an escalation within the last few years. This is a multi-faith walk against violence,” said the 52-year-old Soharwardy during a stop in Amherst.
Soharwardy left Halifax on April 20 to walk across Canada, taking a stand against violence. He hopes to end his journey in Victoria, B.C., in November.
“Violence is wrong, violence is bad, it hurts and we should not be using violence in resolving conflicts and issues. We should be using dialogue. We should be sitting down and talking to people.”
Soharwardy shared his idea of the project a year ago with colleagues in an inter-faith group. He said some were skeptical of the large project in the beginning, but he wanted to continue on with it regardless.
“I think this project is a very effective way to reach out to youth and the general public. Not just Canadians, but maybe people around the world,” he said.
His experience during his first visit to Nova Scotia, says Soharwardy, has been wonderful.
“The response from people is absolutely great. I cannot describe the love, respect and care that people have extended to me and my colleagues. It’s marvelous,” he said.
During the walk, Soharwardy will be the initial walker, with some company joining him along the way. He has three colleagues joining him on the journey.
“The plan is, as the awareness will come, people from different faith groups – faith leaders, priests, rabbis – they will join me for a specific length of walk,” said Soharwardy.
For more on the Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence, visit www.walkagainstviolence.com.
One Man’s Quest
Cross-Country Walk Against Violence Begins in Halifax
BY Rachel Mendleson , Metro Halifax
April 20, 2008
After engaging in interfaith dialogue for years, Syed Soharwardy took his crusade to the streets of Halifax yesterday, as he set off on a cross-country walk against violence.
“Walking will give me an opportunity to shake hands with people — to go to small towns, sit down with them, eat with them,” he said. “You can’t reach out to people in places of worship only.”
But spreading his message requires more than simply walking the walk. To finance the trek to Victoria, B.C., the 52-year-old Calgary man re-mortgaged his home. Including the purchase of an RV with sleeping quarters, a kitchen and bathroom, he estimates the journey will cost between $200,000 and $300,000.
“Hopefully we will get enough money raised to pay off that loan,” said the IT specialist, at the beginning of a nine-month leave of absence.
The multi-faith initiative, he said, is worth the financial risk. The prevalence of suicide bombings, domestic violence and gang violence across all faiths has touched him deeply.
“Violence takes place in any part of the world, it becomes news, and when you turn on news, it affects you. When you read papers, it affects you,” said the Pakistan-born Soharwardy, who is the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism.
“I think we should do something about it and say this is wrong. Violence is absolutely wrong. No religion endorses violence,” he said.
Soharwardy encourages people from all religions and backgrounds to join him for a portion of the journey.
“This is not just a Muslim walk. This is walk of all faith. This is walk of all Canadians,” he said.
A Long Walk to Stamp Out Violence
Calgary Man Asks Others to Join Cross-Canada Trek
By David Jackson Provincial Reporter
Mon. Apr 21 – 5:23 AM
A MIDDLE-AGED Calgary consultant and volunteer imam took a step in polluted Halifax Harbour in his bare feet at about noon Sunday, kicking off his cross-country walk to protest violence.
Syed Soharwardy, 52, said he invites people of all faiths to join him on the Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence as he treks to Victoria, B.C.
Mr. Soharwardy said the idea for the walk came about a year ago.
He said there wasn’t just one violent incident that prompted it, but the apparent escalation of violence — from incidents between young people to international terrorism — that led to theproject.
“What I see, what’s going on in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, suicide bombings, killings, domestic violence in homes,” Mr. Soharwardy said in a Halifax waterfront parking lot. “Because being a leader in the Islamic community, I get calls from many women (telling) me that they have been abused by their husbands.
“I did not have something personally that I experienced. But I can see, I can feel, and it hurts me, and people around the world are getting affected by this violence.
“Now we are living in a completely different world. This is a global village, so violence takes place in any part of the world. It becomes news, and when you turn on news, it affects you.”
Mr. Soharwardy, a native of Karachi, Pakistan, who went to United States in 1980 for schooling and has lived in Calgary for 15 years, said he decided on the walk because it will draw more attention and allow him to meet more people than speaking in mosques, churches or synagogues.
He said he especially wants to reach out to young people.”Hopefully, we’ll be able to change some minds not to use violence. That is the purpose,” said Mr. Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism.
“If I change one mind, I have achieved my purpose, and if we change more minds, it’s good.”
With new white Adidas running sneakers, dark track pants, a blue mesh Brooks ball cap and a white T-shirt advertising the Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence, the volunteer iman with a salt-and-pepper beard said he was mentally and physically ready for the journey.
His plan was to walk 15 to 20 kilometres after his midday start Sunday and about 35 to 40 kilometres other days. A marathon is 42 kilometres.
The information technology consultant, now on a nine-month leave of absence, said he got a treadmill a couple of months ago and has been training since then. He said he figures his body will adapt to the daily exercise, and people’s prayers will help.
Mr. Soharwardy said he remortgaged his house to fund the excursion, which he expects will cost between $200,000 and $300,000. He said he hopes people will make donations along the way.
He said he bought a recreational vehicle and he and a couple of supporters drove it to Halifax last week. He said he plans to spend his nights in it during the walk.
Mr. Soharwardy has been in and out of the news the last couple of years for his battle with Ezra Levant, former publisher of the now-defunct Western Standard, a conservative magazine.
In 2006, the Western Standard published Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The caricatures had set off violent protests in the Muslim world and Mr. Soharwardy filed a complaint with Alberta’s human rights commission.
Mr. Soharwardy said he withdrew the complaint in January.
He sent a column to the Globe and Mail in February that said he had talked to other Muslim leaders as well as Christian and Jewish friends and concluded the matter was not appropriate for the commission’s mandate.
There had been an allegation in Alberta that three women had filed a human rights complaint against Mr. Soharwardy late last year, but the commission never contacted him, as it would if there was a legitimate complaint. Mr. Soharwardy said Sunday that he suspected someone concocted the hoax to derail the walk.
He said he plans to end his walk by stepping into the Pacific Ocean in November.
The exact route seems to be a work in progress, as he asked how to get on a secondary road to get to Truro. He said he would rather stay off the main highways so he can meet people.
A couple of supporters handed out brochures along the harbour Sunday.
At least one man declined to take one, while another, Derek Caine, saw Mr. Soharwardy step in the harbour and promised to meet him on the West Coast if his feet “didn’t rot off” and he completed the walk.
Mr. Caine said he admired Mr. Soharwardy for taking action and said they sort of had something in common. Mr. Caine, 65, has leukemia and raises money for other leukemia patients.
Multi-Faith Walk to Protest Violence
Paula Beauchamp, Calgary Herald
March 29, 2008
Calgary imam Syed Soharwardy has announced a multi-faith walk against violence, which aims to draw thousands of Canadians to the streets, as the walk winds its way across the country over the next eight months.
Flanked by leaders from the Anglican and Catholic churches, the United Church of Canada, the African and Khmer communities, Soharwardy said the walk would protest all forms of abuse, including child abuse, domestic abuse, terrorism, gangs, bullying and elder abuse.
The Calgary-driven initiative will kick off in Halifax on April 20 and wind up in Victoria at the end of November, the team said.
Tunde Dawodu, left, Bill Phipps, Rev. Tara Livingston and Syed Soharwardy provide details Friday on a countrywide walk against violence. “This walk will show that every religion is against violence,” Soharwardy says.
Soharwardy has committed to joining the walk for the full eight to nine months after remortgaging his home to partially fund the venture, which is expected to cost $250,000 to $300,000.
“(The walk) will draw attention repeatedly to the fact that violence is bad,” Soharwardy said.
“There are people who justify violence based on religion. This walk will show that every religion, including Islam, is against violence.”
Soharwardy said he was partly driven by the need to send a message to terrorists of all creeds, who misinterpret scripture and use religion to justify acts of violence, that no violence is justified.
Bill Phipps, a former moderator of the United Church of Canada, said the church whole-heartedly supports multi-faith undertakings because they send a more powerful message.
“One religion’s voice falls on deaf ears,” he said, adding people take note of a united voice.
Participants will rally at city halls in each of the towns they pass through.
The Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence team last week began contacting faith leaders across the country to garner support. Each day more support is rolling in, Soharwardy said.
The team is hoping sponsors and donations will help meet the shortfall.
© The Calgary Herald 2008
Un Imam Contre La Violence
Mise à jour le vendredi 27 juin 2008
Une marche de plusieurs centaines de kilomètres contre la violence. C’est le projet qu’a entrepris l’imam Syed Soharwardy.
L’imam de Calgary, âgé de 52 ans, a entamé le 20 avril dernier à Halifax une longue marche à pieds qui le mènera jusqu’à Calgary. Il espère arriver sur la colline du Parlement le 1er juillet pour la fête du Canada et reprendre sa marche le lendemain.
L’imam Soharwardy, fondateur du Conseil suprême islamique du Canada et de l’organisation des musulmans contre le terrorisme en 1999, a décidé d’entreprendre cette marche pour protester contre toutes les formes de violence, dont la violence faite aux enfants et le terrorisme.
M. Soharwardy affirme avoir observé tout au long de son périple que les Canadiens ont une culture de tolérance et d’acceptation de l’autre.
« Mon pire cauchemar avant de commencer était le Québec parce que je ne connais pas le français, a-t-il dit. J’avais au sujet des francophones cette idée voulant qu’ils ne parlent pas l’anglais », a-t-il affirmé
« Mais j’ai reçu plus d’amour au Québec que n’importe où ailleurs. J’ai dit à ma femme si Dieu me donne un peu d’argent, je vais acheter une maison au Québec ».
« Ils n’étaient pas capables de parler anglais et je ne pouvais pas parler français, mais ils ont fait en sorte que je me sente bien grâce à leur langage corporel et leurs poignées de main. »
Né et élevé à Karachi, au Pakistan, M. Soharwardy fait également partie de groupes interconfessionnels partageant son point de vue sur toutes les formes d’agression.
Un Imam de 52 Ans Traverse le Canada à Pied
Mise à jour: 26/06/2008 19:47
Afin de protester contre la violence
Une étape à la fois, un kilomètre après l’autre, un imam de Calgary découvre le Canada sous un jour différent dans le cadre d’une marche contre la violence.
Syed Soharwardy, âgé de 52 ans, a entrepris son périple il y a six semaines, le 20 avril, à Halifax. M. Soharwardy espère arriver sur la colline du parlement le 1er juillet, jour de la fête du Canada, et faire une pause à l’occasion des célébrations. Il entend reprendre sa marche le jour suivant.
Le fondateur du Conseil suprême islamique du Canada et de l’organisation des Musulmans contre le terrorisme a décidé d’entreprendre cette marche afin de protester contre toutes les formes de violence, incluant la violence faite aux enfants et la violence familiale, le terrorisme, les gangs de rue, l’intimidation et la violence envers les personnes âgées.
M. Soharwardy affirme avoir observé tout au long de son périple le bon côté des Canadiens en ce qui concerne la tolérance et l’acceptation des autres.
Né et élevé à Karachi, au Pakistan, M. Soharwardy ne mâche pas ses mots lorsqu’il est question de terrorisme et de violence de quelque type que ce soit. Depuis longtemps, il fait également partie de groupes interconfessionnels partageant son point de vue sur toutes les formes d’agression.
«Mon pire cauchemar avant de commencer était le Québec parce que je ne connais pas le français, a-t-il dit. J’avais au sujet des francophones cette idée voulant qu’ils ne parlent pas l’anglais», a-t-il affirmé lors d’un entretien téléphonique accordé à La Presse Canadienne, alors qu’il approchait de Sault Ste. Marie, en Ontario.
Mais j’ai reçu plus d’amour au Québec que n’importe où ailleurs. J’ai dit à ma femme: Si Dieu me donne un peu d’argent, je vais acheter une maison au Québec.
«Ils n’étaient pas capables de parler anglais et je ne pouvais pas parler français, mais ils ont fait en sorte que je me sente bien grâce à leur langage corporel et leurs poignées de mains.»
FINAL WRAP-UP NOTE:
By Linda Zachri
Media and Public Relations Coordinator
Multifaith Walk Against Violence, 2008
Greetings to all of you on Remembrance day.
The largest, and most arduous part of the Multifaith Walk Against Violence ended on October 27 at the grounds of the Legislative Assembley of Victoria, B.C. in an event which called into play the organizing and creative abilities of a truly dynamic group of British Columbians.
As some of you may recall. Syed Soharwardy began the Walk at the docks of Halifax on April 20 by dipping his feet in the Atlantic Ocean and walking westward. On Vancouver Island, he dipped his feet in the waters of the Pacific near Victoria’s Terry Fox statue – the latest of the five pairs of shoes worn out on the journey.
Prominent among those present at the legislature were:
Karima Ramji – MC – President of the Victoria Multifaith Society and Master of Ceremonies
Rev J. McRee (Mac) Elrod – a key organizer, and host for Syed and the other volunteers.
Sheila Flood – VMS
Councillor Chris Coleman (acting Mayor City of Victoria)
Sarfaraz Ahmed (Canpak Alliance Society)
Ruth Cook (Aboriginal Elder)
Waheed Chaudhry of Canpak
Naz Rayani, who arranged the media
We were delighted to hear that a number of faith leaders and faith group members took the time to come to the gathering.
Reverend Mac and many others have thoughtfully sent on pictures so we could vicariously enjoy the day, but wish I could have heard the beautiful music of David Person on his accordion, the singing of Kathryn Whitney and the inspiring words of Elder Ruth Cook who opened the event with a prayer. Of course, the Raging Grannies were there to help with a “spirit injection”. We also heard from some groups whom, regrettably, we had overlooked, or had been unable to contact. We apologize to you, but we hope you will contact us and tell us about your work and your position against violence.
We invite you all to follow this link for an account of the day’s events (good pictures, too!)
I also wish I could have tasted some of the potluck supper organized by members of Canpac and the InterCultural Association of Victoria. I would like to make special mention of Jean McRae (Executive Director, InterCultural Association of Victoria) and
Steven Bailey (InterCultural Association of Victoria) and executives and members of Canpak: Sarfaraz Ahmed (President), Ali Kharaghani (Vice President), Dr. Abdulla Siddiqi, Safeer Badshah and Asif Ahmad (Directors), M. Aleemuddin (Treasurer)
Waheed Chaudhry and Abul Manzur.
In Calgary there was much work to be done and much more travelling from east to west. The RV had to be unpacked, cleaned and taken to the dealer in Airdrie. This vehicle had been a second home for Syed and the volunteers, but now its sale will help to cover some of the expenses incurred by the walk. (If you know of anyone who might be interested in purchasing the RV, Syed would be happy to talk to them. He can be contacted at 403-831-6330.) Then they were off to Ontario, where Syed had commitments and a very young family member of one of the volunteers would be undergoing open heart surgery. The operation was a success and the little boy is doing well.
Last but not least, we would like to thank all of you who lent us your support. Some have walked with the walkers, or met them along the way. Some, like Pete Vere in Ontario, have provided guidance and looked out for the welfare of the walkers at a time when it was particularly needed. Some, undeterred by language barriers, like our dear Suzanne and Audree, have taken the time to write periodic notes of encouragement while some, like Dr. Allen Wells in Sarnia Ontario, have helped with the language and cultural divide as interpreters and emergency contact/resource persons. To all who took the trouble to write, cheer on the walkers and help to spread the word of the Multifaith Walk: you all made a difference. We thank you all.
In his interview with Times Colonist, Katherine Dedyna, Syed Soharwardy reiterated that the walk was about changing people’s opinions about violence. The walk was not about one faith or one group of people, but a walk for all Canadians and faith members to say that violence has no place in any religion. In helping the walkers at the end of their long trek across Canada, your individual voices became a united shout along with those of the walkers to stand up and say:
“NO this is not acceptable!”
We will not be told, cajoled or threatened by those within our faiths to accept the idea that our religion justifies violence. We will not passively accept the judgment that it is “normal”, “part of the culture” and (therefore) excusable when members of other faiths become victims of abuse. Most of all, we will not dismiss any victims of violence/abuse as somehow deserving of this treatment. We are our fellow man, and to allow abuse without united protest or action diminishes us all. Violence has no place in any religion.
Today, on the 90th anniversary of the Armistice of World War I, I watched a broadcast from Vimy, once the site of 300 days and nights of constant shelling and fighting, now the location of a memorial with row on row of white crosses. Visible on my television screen, but less well known, is a Muslim graveyard, and small mosque – also located at Vimy. The brotherhood of the dead crossed many boundaries in World War I. People called it “the war to end all wars”, only to learn that greater and more terrible wars were to come and that war cannot be ended by war.
I saw one of the last surviving soldiers of the Great War, a man of 110, weep as he remembered holding the hand of a dying comrade. What pain wars inflict even after the shelling stops! We must not forget, we must remember. However, the word “remember” can itself be exploited to inflict more pain. In the same BBC broadcast, there was more news of fighting in Northern Ireland, much of which is being done in the name of “remembering”. Some of this “remembering” goes back to the days of Oliver Cromwell! Folk memories of the excesses of the “Lord Protector” belong in a museum, not festering in living human hearts. Let us also address those who would attempt to revive feelings of resentment for a battle in Kosovo in 1389. And to all others around the world who try to justify acts of violence in the name of long-dead events: what a lot of energy to expend just to keep pain alive! What bizarre rationale would lead people to such behaviour – like trying to revive an ancient mummy long buried in a tomb? No, true remembering is not re-experiencing. It is not an attempt to revive old resentments, but an act of reverence and an objective looking back to say:
“This is what happened. We see the result. We will remember and learn.”
Now we have begun discussions with faith leaders and representatives across Canada about the possibility of an annual Multifaith Walk. It has been suggested that the first Sunday in November would be appropriate, since November is Family Violence Prevention Month, as well as the month of Remembrance Day.
We do this so as not to break faith with those who died. Let them sleep in Flanders’ Fields. We will continue the vigil.
Walk in peace,