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Human Interest

Celebrating together for 25 years

S

askatoon is known for its many festivals. One that has received less recognition is marking its 25th year, the annual Festival of Faith. The Silver Jubilee, titled “Celebrating Together” will take place on Sunday, March 14 at the house of worship where it first began, Third Avenue United Church. This local interfaith event is significant in many respects. It puts Saskatoon in the vanguard. Multi-faith festivals and activities are now common in scores of cities around the world. However, in 1985, when the first festival was held in Saskatoon, the only record of a prior festival of faith was a one-time event in San Francisco to celebrate an anniversary of the formation of the United Nations.

“Saskatoon’s festival owes its early and ongoing success, in large part, to Dr. David Kaplan, who has been associated with the festival from the very first to the present,” noted Ursula Wiig, U of S Chaplain. “He was the primary organizer and musical director for many years and has written original music for every festival.” “This coming festival will have two Kaplan compositions for combined choirs,” said Neil Schwartz, Cantor with Congregation Agudas Israel. “The choral song “Prayer for Peace,” from the very first festival, includes the word “peace” in many languages. His recent song, “Thank You for the World,” will be sung by combined children’s choirs, with “thank you” in many languages.” Kaplan’s contributions to music and using the universal language of music to build community in Saskatoon have earned him every citizen honour, from citizen of

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the year to an Order of Canada. “Though music is a central component, the festival also includes dance, Aboriginal drumming, and sacred chant,” emphasized Schwartz.

The festival was born when a local chapter of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews organized a celebratory event to include the diversity of spiritual traditions in the city.

The program also includes a Baha’i prayer chanted in Persian, a Buddhist chant and the Moslem call to prayer. Two of the choirs which sang in the first festival will be back for encores; Knox United Church choir and the Doukhobor choir, which sings in the rare and hauntingly beautiful “a cappella” tradition of their Russian ancestors. The festival was born when a local chapter of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews organized a celebratory event to include the diversity of spiritual traditions in the city. Out of that initiative, the organization, MultiFaith Saskatoon (MFS) came into being. MFS operates under the direction of an elected executive made up of members from a wide range of faith communities Find out how FORD BLIS can save and the festival is a you from drivers like this!!! central aspect of its programs.

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The relevance of the festival has grown. In Saskatoon, religious diversity is now increasing more rapidly than ever due to the current wave of immigration. While the celebration of multiculturalism is common, the religious dimension of pluralism is often shied away from due to its sensitive nature. The reality is that after race, religiously motivated attacks are the second most common form of hate and prejudice in the world today. And yet, education about religious diversity and the power of religion as a creative force is lacking. “Many people who attend the festival for the first time experience people of all faiths celebrating together and sharing a sacred dimension of their faith openly,” Wiig noted. “This helps everyone appreciate the common ethical ground of all faiths and the different but parallel forms of worship.” Saskatoon’s logo uses a spectrum of colours forming a star to represent the many cultures and enterprises of the city and the city’s aspirations to shine brightly, to excel, to glow with splendour. In similar fashion, light is a common image in all religions, symbolizing God, illumination, knowledge, purity and hope. It is increasingly being seen in communities that have embraced it, that interfaith collaboration releases the light of unity and reduces the darkness of fear and division. As Dr. Kaplan once said, “I like to think I’m a spiritual person. I like to be around others with faiths different from mine -- and they like to share it. It’s one way to keep evil down. We’re together and we get ‘er done.’’ The 25th festival begins at 2.30pm and is free and open to all.

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