By Romina Monaco

According to the Oxford Dictionary “light” is mostly defined as a natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. However, there is also the ethereal “light” associated with faith. The various metaphorical contexts of “light”, which are described in most religious dogmas, have become an important element of human existence. Throughout the ages its theological relevance has coalesced and become deeply imbedded into the cultural fabric and diverse customs of mankind.

On December 13th members of the multicultural community gathered at the 1st Annual Festival of Light to celebrate and share their individual light interpretations by way of lectures, music and dance presentations. Held at Vaughan City Hall the event was hosted by the National Congress of Italian-Canadians (NCIC) in collaboration with Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, Members of Council, Minister Julian Fantino, York Regional Police and the Rotary Club of Woodbridge.

Mayor Bevilacqua, referred to various cultural exhibits and religious symbols on display, expressing that an individual’s unique beliefs can ultimately lead to enlightenment – a universal commonality that knows no boundaries and unites all people.

“As humans we have all experienced powerful moments of darkness within our lives. However, the power of light can be encapsulated in the fact that a single ray of light can break darkness. As powerful as darkness can be it cannot defeat a single ray of light”, said Bevilacqua.

Equally profound were the words expressed by other dignitaries as well as religious and community leaders. Representing both the provincial and federal government was Minister of International Development and Vaughan MP, Julian Fantino, whose message centred mainly on awareness.

“This is an opportunity to learn, embrace our differences and share our traditions. We will take this understanding back to our families, friends and communities, building on a common respect and value system”, stated Fantino.

It’s no wonder that this event has received nation-wide recognition. The framework of the Canadian identity is comprised of the sum of a collective of cultures that go back to the Native American first people, later the arrival of European settlers and subsequent waves of immigration. As the fastest growing city in Canada, Vaughan has been a role model of religious and ethnic tolerance as well as the sustainability of multiculturalism. This Festival of Light reinforces the city’s commitment to supporting and recognizing ethnicity while at the same time exhibiting community solidarity thus sending a strong social message to Canadians at large.

Represented were the First Nations, Roman Catholic, Sikh Darma, East Indian, Ukranian Orthodox and Ahmadiyya Muslim communities as well as the Vaughan African-Canadian Association, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

Inspired by the light ceremonies of the Jewish Hanukkah, Indian Diwali and African Kwanzaa, event organizer and president of the NCIC, Michael Tibollo expressed that, “the metaphor of light is found in art, literature and music and has enriched the culture and traditions of man. Light has, and continues, to illuminate the spirit, mind and heart of every culture, scripture and mythology”.

Delivering his own beacon of hope and allowing those in attendance to reflect on their individual meaning of light and greater purpose here on earth, Tibollo added, “It’s important to reach out to other communities and learn from them - without fear. We as Canadians have a responsibility to ensure that future generations do not forget their language of origin, culture and traditions.”

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