Chaplains offer vital support to inmates

Chaplains offer vital support to inmates
Imam Michael AbdurRashid Taylor receives award from MPP Bas Balkisson and Chaplain Habeeb Alli
Imam Michael AbdurRashid Taylor receives award from MPP Bas Balkisson and Chaplain Habeeb Alli

(January 28, 2014) – Chaplains are important in providing support and help to inmates in Ontario prisons, according to speakers at the Second Annual ONE LOVE Chaplaincy Fund Raising dinner held last Saturday evening at the Islamic Foundation in Scarborough.

“Chaplains are specially trained to listen with empathy to someone in trouble and to offer guidance and assistance and help from the faith based perspective,” Dr. Katherine Bullock told the audience. “Importantly, chaplains are trained not to be judgmental so that a person never fears for providing their errors, their faults and needs and I think this is a tremendous resource.”

Katherine Bullock is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto in Mississauga, President of the Tessellate Institute and Coordinator of the Canadian Certificate of Muslim Studies Program at Emmanuel College.

“I know chaplaincy is a very emotionally overwhelming task sometimes, so we would like to give our support to the chaplains,” she added.

The ONE LOVE Chaplaincy dinner was organized to raise awareness about the situation of inmates in prisons and to raise funds to keep chaplaincy services in Canadian prisons, according to the organizers.

Member of Provincial Parliament for the riding of Scarborough-Rouge River, Bas Balkisson, brought greetings from the Ontario government and commended the organizer, Chaplain Habeeb Alli, for putting on the event.

“I want to complement Imam Alli as I know he has been tirelessly working to support this community and to encourage this type of friendship,” said MPP Balkisson. “I want to congratulate you for doing this this evening, it is the only way to bring peace and harmony amongst our various communities.”

“I want to complement you on the work you do everyday to keep you community strong and to keep your faith strong among community members,” he told the gathering. “On behalf of the government of Ontario and Premier Kathleen Wynn, I wish you the best.”

Donations raised at the event will support the chaplaincy services offered by the Ottawa-based Islam Care Center (ICC) that has been at the forefront of supporting chaplains in Ontario prisons.

The Center provides two permanent Muslim Chaplains to all the federal penitentiaries in Ontario.

Working in partnership with Correctional Service Canada and the Ontario Multifaith Council, Islam Care Center has fostered an environment that allows for prisoners to develop themselves while serving their sentences and then to reintegrate back into their community.

The Islam Care Center ensures that inmates receive a prayer mat and Qur’an, in a language of their choice, as well as access to other Islamic literature, and monitor that their religious rights are preserved.

ICC also tries to ensure that inmates who are released can re-integrate into society in an easy manner.

Ahmad Habhab2
MPP Bas Balkisson and Ahmad Habhab

The audience at Saturday’s dinner heard a moving testimony by Ahmed Habhab who was sent to prison after being convicted for drug trafficking.

Habhab was arrested and served a prison sentence but turned his life around while on bail.

“Who is there to help you and guide you,” asked Habhab. “For me personally, I turned to Rabbul Alameen, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.”

“Even though I was born a Muslim I did not possess that much knowledge about Islam and that is why, personally for me, talking to a prison chaplain was so important.”

Imam Michael AbdurRashid Taylor was presented with a plaque recognizing his exemplary service as a chaplain and for his recent appointment as the new Ontario Regional Chaplain.

Imam AbdurRashid emphasized the need for community support of Muslim inmates.

“It is not a popular thing to support people in prisons – we can’t sell it on the emotional appeal,” said Imam AbdurRashid. “But what I can promise is that you will feel good about yourselves; what I can promise is that you can do something that will help people who sometimes don’t have any other help; what I can promise is that you will make a change in the life of at least one person.”