Author Archives: commonword

Facilitating the Muslim Christian Dialogue

By Pouria

Through facilitating the Muslim Christian Dialogue 2018 event hosted by A Common Word Alberta, I was greeted with a warm welcome from the multi-culturally diverse audience upon my arrival. Being unacquainted with the others at my table, we played an ice breaker card game to break through the barriers between us. We quickly warmed up to one another as we shared stories and laugher ensued. A humorous moment that I recall, was when a Muslim gentleman, seated next to me, got the ‘share a stressful moment card, but he could hardly recall any stressful moment in his life!

 After the game and the fantastic remarks by the MCs, we had the chance to listen to two inspirational talks by the two guest speakers. The speakers would break to allow every table the opportunity to discuss the topics brought up by the speakers. I certainly enjoyed the mutually compelling discussions at my table, where a Christian lady shared her sad story about her father. Despite all her efforts in opening his eyes to and being more tolerant of different religions, he was still resistant to it. In contrast, everyone at my table was so willing to be open and transparent and coming together in dialogue to “walk the path together”. In addition, we had some detailed discussions on the practical aspects of the two faiths. Undoubtedly, a couple of Christian ladies at my table were somewhat astonished by the refusal of a hand shake by the Muslim gentleman and found it to be a challenging topic, which I tried to explain from the Muslim viewpoint. After an explanation, the ladies were satisfied with the rule and learned that it was by no means used to segregate or disrespect the other gender. It was simply a rule that both Shia women and men follow, due to the special reverence between the genders. Overall, the event was not only beneficial in teaching us to learn the differences between the religions, but also, to learn from and embrace each other’s faiths. To build onto the event, I am looking forward to more of these opportunities in the future.

The 6th Annual Christian/Muslim Interfaith Dialogue

By Joseph Abraham

The sixth Christian-Muslim Dialogue was held at the ARCA Banquet Hall in Edmonton on October 27, 2018. The theme of the Interfaith Dialogue was “Walking Together: Experiencing Peace In Our Midst.”

In a world that is constantly changing, where relationships between nations and neighbors are deteriorating, it is imperative that we constantly communicate with each other. Engaging in dialogue is very important to understand the view of others, especially in today’s world where we are no longer living in a situation where we are insulated from outside influences. As the saying goes the only constant in the world is change. Those people who are not willing to adapt to the changes that come, are left behind. Embracing change does not mean that we have to give up the values we stand for, but it is always beneficial to look for positives in the opposite parties whom we detest. Participating in the Interfaith Dialogue definitely helped to open the eyes of many in that regard.

After coming to Canada as a new immigrant myself, I faced many challenges to integrate with the Canadian psyche along with much discrimination and racism. The same discrimination exists in the country I originated from, in the form of the caste system where different groups are considered superior to others based on the caste they are born into. I could experience the feelings of the lower caste when I arrived in Canada and faced a similar type of discrimination.

These very same feelings of discrimination and hopelessness are currently being felt by the Muslim community and visible minorities in Canada which were clearly highlighted by the speaker Mr.Zaid al Rawni. The importance of loving your neighbor was highlighted by Dr.Wes Thiessen from Calgary.

The fundamentals of Christianity as explained by Jesus himself in Mark 12:30-31 as following:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

When we Christians follow the above two commandments of God it is possible to experience “peace in our midst.”

Sharing Our Voices for Peace

By Naz Qureshi

If you have a sapling in your hand and the End of Times arrives upon you – continue planting it.”

This saying, attributed to the Prophet of Islam, is one that inspires me greatly. This statement begs the question, why go to all the effort for a tree that will not bear fruit in that moment when the world is ending? This hadith teaches that no matter what the circumstances may be, or how futile your efforts may seem, it is one’s responsibility to continue contributing.

I am not a scholar of religious study, nor am I a religious leader. Despite having a secular, corporate background, the unique heritage and sacred teachings of the Abrahamic faiths, especially the points where they converge, has always been of great interest to me. A Common Word Alberta (ACWAB) is an excellent forum that allows for interfaith discussion in Edmonton through its various initiatives. The annual dialogue hosted by ACWAB last October, educates members of Islam and Christianity of the complexities and challenges of the relationship between them. The outcome of these dialogues, is the realization that the Abrahamic faiths, commonly viewed as being eternally at odds with one another, have much more in common after all.

I became involved in the Scriptural Reasoning program, hosted by ACWAB, to further my understanding of Abrahamic scriptures. This program has truly deepened relationships between members of different faith groups as well as addresses the complexity of issues underlying the relationship. The variety of topics covered in these sessions reflects both commonalities and challenges between adherents of the three faiths.

Perhaps it is not the politicians, the academics, or the religious leaders who will invariably bring peace. From my involvement in interfaith work, I think perhaps it is the grassroots initiatives, the extraordinary, yet ordinary people who will turn out to be the Gideon’s of the Bible. A Common Word Alberta lays the groundwork that interfaith dialogue can lead to effective collaboration on contemporary issues. I recommend participating in these programs to anyone involved in interfaith work or simply wishing to know the ‘unknown other.’

The dialogue held last October, equips one with tools to ensure these two communities come together in the spirit of humanity, where differences can be respected, irrespective of political aims or aspirations. In other words, to contribute, regardless of whatever the outcome will be.

Any relationship requires trust and from my experience with ACWAB programs I can personally attest that the best way to build a relationship’s foundation is with a yearning to understand as well as be understood. In other words, simply getting to know each other. When relationships are strong enough to be sustained despite disagreements, then we can move past the niceties and similarities, and start exploring differences.

This step takes true courage. You must share your own narrative, while at the same time listening to understand and embrace the narrative of the other.  Dialogue should not be a debating match of who is right or wrong. Dialogue, at the deepest level, transforms you: as your assumptions and generalizations are challenged and quickly broken down, you come to the realization that there is more than one truth.

 In our discussions, we reach an empathic understanding of the other side’s narrative, and our own perspectives begin to be shaped by multiple truths seen through differing lenses and viewpoints. The collective religious identity begins to expand its borders to include the greater identity of humanity. Your own faith is often deepened as a result.

Finally, we learn to hold our own narrative as well as that of the other. We see that members of the other group are not a monolithic mass we may have believed them to be. In my own experience, I have seen that speaking with the other and getting to know that very other breaks down the stereotyping and dehumanization that happens so easily when we are not familiar with the other, or even fear them. So what should we –– as Muslims, Christians, or any multitude of identifiers we choose as human beings –– learn from ACWAB’s dialogue programs?

We should learn that the process of fostering connection across difference is both individually enriching and communally powerful. It is a vital tool we must all use to break through the divisive news stories, policies, and rhetoric we face every day. Sharing our stories and learning from someone you don’t necessarily agree with, lets us tap into the power of a shared conviction: that all of our voices, together, can enact peace in this world.

New Website

Welcome to the new website for A Common Word Alberta. We are currently under construction, but hope to be back and fully functional within the next couple of weeks. Please check back again, and thanks for your patience!