Toronto

Thousands gather to break Ramadan fast in the heart of the city

There was music, food, and special appearances from Mayor John Tory and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for the first Fast in the 6 event in Nathan Phillips Square.

First-ever Fast in the 6 event brought food and music to Nathan Phillips Square

Organizer Dany Assaf said part of the motivation for the event was to 'change the channel' on negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam. (CBC News)

Thousands of Torontonians of all faiths gathered in the heart of the city to celebrate Ramadan on Friday night — a first-of-its-kind celebration that organizers hope becomes an annual event.

There was music, food, and special appearances by Mayor John Tory and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland for the Fast in the 6 event in Nathan Phillips Square, which celebrated the breaking of the Ramadan fast.

The evening was spearheaded by Toronto philanthropists Dany and Lisa Assaf, who say it took a year to plan, and initially started with the notion of hosting a Ramadan dinner in their backyard.

"Part of the practice of Ramadan is to break your fast with friends, family, and enjoy food — and we thought, wouldn't it be great if we could do that for the whole city? Clearly our backyard's not big enough," Lisa Assaf said with a laugh.

The evening was hosted by Raptors home-game host Mark Strong and featured performances by the TSO Chamber Soloists, pop artist Yuna, and comedian Mo Amer. (CBC News)

The evening was hosted by Raptors home-game host Mark Strong and featured performances by the TSO Chamber Soloists, pop artist Yuna, and comedian Mo Amer.

Dany Assaf said part of the motivation for the event was to "change the channel" on negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam.

"We just wanted to share a great message of diversity and inclusion," he said.

This diversity, Tory echoed, is what sets Toronto apart from the rest of the world. 

"We're not perfect, but [there is] a lot to be said about how we live together here," he said.

With files from Natalie Nanowski