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An October 31st Invitation to Christian Muslim Dialogue

by Donna Entz- Mennonite Christian

“Ashura” was commemorated on August 30, the culmination of 10 days of mourning in the Muslim Shia community. The martydom of the family of the prophet in Karbala, Iraq, in the year of 680, was carried out by a despicable leader of the fledgling Muslim movement. The grandson, Imam Husayn, took a stand against this corruption and is therefore honoured for his willingness to die in self-sacrifice. The details of Ashura story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af_6RMIuGSQ                 

As I watched the sorrowful livestream at a local mosque, where I have often visited, my heart reflected that today our times are no better – still “so much wrong and so much injustice”.  With sudden astonishment,  I recognized the words as a modern Christian song by John Bell from the Iona community.  It was a surprise  to experience the same emotional tone in the song about Jesus’ death as I had in the Muslim event.  The lyrics continued the Ashura theme, calling us to follow Jesus who took a stand against injustice.  In fact that common vision for justice had brought us together in advocacy for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  I sent the song to these Muslim friends, and though it also highlighted deep theological differences, Dr Masoud Shadnam, chose these words to post to social media: 

“So much wrong and so much injustice,

so you shouldered a wooden cross.

Now, like you, my best dreams are shattered;

all I know is the weight of loss.

No fine song, no impressive music

can attempt to relieve my heart;

in this hour I am called to grieving,

lest no other will play this part.”

 John Bell’s song: https://youtu.be/qPZIGtN-L9c

Commonalities and connections are often experienced  at informal and formal Interfaith Dialogues.  My Mennonite-shaped reaction has often been to want to build ongoing connections among the participants.  In “A Common Word Alberta” a unique form of dialogue has emerged, where the majority of the time together is spent not in listening to presenters, but in sharing with those around a table (and in today’s Zoom world, break-out rooms). Our style of dialogue has been officially promoted among Canadian Lutherans and Anglicans, now also.  

Dialogues are where both faith communities give verbal  testimony to their understanding and experiences of faith. I remember the year that a Moravian pastor shared many stories about Jesus and how he related with respect and care to people of all kinds.  My heart leapt  for joy to think that so many Muslims were introduced to these stories, so important in my life. It was also around a table at a Dialogue that a Turkish friend shared her heart’s grief of the suffering women in her home country.  Our combined communities shared her pain. These interactions are a common thread between my decades of work as a Witness worker in Burkina Faso and my years of work here in Edmonton  through Mennonite Church Alberta. 

Our  Christian Muslim Dialogue will have an online component this year. That means that folks from all across Canada can participate in these same experiences. For details – and to register for the October 31 – event, go to: http://acwalberta.ca/