My Quest Of Faith And Love

By Celine Leduc

I yearn to find a solution of peace through love and faith. I joined IFLAC - the International Forum For The Literature And Culture Of Peace and I hope to create a forum where we can discuss ideas and be friends. I am often asked how a Canadian like me got involved with the Middle East and its people. So here is my life story.

Part 1:

I was born in a small village near Montreal, Quebec, Canada. My mother is Irish American and my late father was French Canadian. I was brought up Catholic and although I have faith in God, my faith in Catholicism waned a great deal. My early years were spent in a small village school and as a child I was always at the top of my class. But in high school I had to adjust to nuns and my grades went down.

In theology classes we were told that Jesus was the first Catholic, but that did not make sense to me, even when I was 6 years old and even less when I got older. As a child I had dreams about Moses, who used to come and speak to me. I knew it was Moses, because he had a long beard and was very kind and warm. My mother stopped reading me pictorial children stories of the Bible because of that phenomenon. Yet to this day, I swear Moses comes to me when I am in doubt or have problems.

To continue my studies I had to go to Montreal. I attended secretarial school, where I met my oldest and best friend, Viviane, a Jewish girl from Egypt. We had lots of fun and enjoy ourselves to this day. We used to spend Saturdays and Sundays visiting various synagogues and churches. Religion brought us closer and helped us understand one another.

One day I heard a Rabbi on the radio, took down his name and called him. I met the late Rabbi Hausmann at his synagogue and asked him the questions that puzzled me since childhood: Was Jesus a Jew? And did he convert? He was surprised by my direct approach. He told me that Jesus was by all accounts Jewish and more than likely - was a Rabbi. I had been right all those years ago, and now I got confirmation. A weight lifted from my shoulders. Then the Rabbi gave me my first Bible, and explained that women were not responsible for the original sin as believed by Catholics. It was refusing to take responsibility that was the original sin and not the mistake. He explained that we all make mistakes but have to own up to them in order to live an honest life. He also told me that it was important to write and keep diaries and to share our ideas with others.

After my graduation, I met another Jewish girl, Marlene, and through her I learnt about Israel and Israelis. We had lots of Israeli friends, helped them settle in Montreal, and taught one another English, Hebrew and French. We had lots of fun, yet we lost many friends during the war, when they went back to defend their home in Israel. My Israeli friends were from Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Iran and Iraq. I learnt from them about the depth and the beauty of their culture. I knew they had suffered and were in exile but they always had a smile, a song or a dance. We were there one for the other and still are. My social life was basically within the Jewish community. I was never made to feel like a stranger but as a member of the community.

I then worked in many places and had a nice social life, but none of these filled that spiritual part of me. I felt that I had something to do, but did not know what it was! At 19 I joined a Yoga and Meditation group, in my twenties I visited the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, various Christian groups, and revisited Catholicism, never leaving my Jewish friends. I was looking for something; maybe trying to understand who the Christian Jesus was.

About ten years ago, I met a Muslim woman from Iraq. Until then, the only people I knew from the Arab world were Jews who escaped oppression in their homeland. Amira was a very religious Muslim. She wanted to teach me about her culture and was surprised to learn that I knew a great deal about her part of the world through my Jewish friends. She told me that Jesus was a Prophet of Islam. I told her I knew him as a Rabbi or teacher, the idea of his being a Prophet intrigued me. She invited me to "revert to my roots" - that is to become a Muslim, which means I submit to God. I was curious, so I accepted her invitation and tried Islam. All that time, I was surrounded and protected by my Jewish friends. They never left me and were there for me when I was confused and hurting inside.

At first I liked the Muslim world, the prayers and the idea of unity and peace, it was only when I was asked to convert to their poltiical agenda that I started suffering. When I asked questions I was told to have faith in God and to submit to His will. I felt something was wrong, as the message of peace turned too often to anti-Jewish and anti-Christian feelings. I was asked to cut myself off from my past. My heart was in turmoil. How could I accept the vilification of Jews, when I had lived among them and knew them? I was always correcting misconceptions about the Jews. Many Muslims told me that I was Jewish and a Zionist, since I believed in Israel. I could not take it anymore and left the Muslim world full of paradox and conundrums. I am neither bitter nor angry, I am glad that I walked in that path, as I got to understand and love a people. I got to know many great Muslim women and men, who wanted to speak out and could not.

Part 2 of Celine's Story

Articles published in HopeWays' 'News & Views' section

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