It was a cold morning, not as cold as some other mornings I’ve experienced during my last two years of residence in Edmonton, but I was too excited to feel the cold. I remember thinking about the possibility of experiencing the impossible. Even though it seemed pretty casual to most people in that great spacious auditorium of long walls and high ceiling, for me as a new immigrant, born Muslim, studied at Catholic school, always interested in finding out more about so called “our God” and “their God” and frankly, never appreciated by the religious studies teacher for asking too many questions, this interfaith dialogue was in fact experiencing what didn’t seem to be practical, or even possible, in my school years.
entered the building reminding myself of the term “6th”,
repeating in my head that no matter how impossible it may seem to me,
this interfaith dialogue has been going on for 6 years now. I guess I
wanted to calm my nerves whenever I thought of the reactions I might
receive as a Muslim woman wearing a Hijab, or as I heard many times
in the recent year; “as others, who are not much liked because of
people’s fear from what they are not familiar with”.
enough, this was also the sentence I heard from the speaker, after
being repeated a
couple of times at our table too. Around a table of 8, with me being
the only Muslim, two lovely Christian sisters, one Catholic couple,
both wearing a cross with the lady’s one being slightly smaller
than her husband’s, a priest and his friend from Ontario, and a
very nice young facilitator who tried hard to remain nice even when
unintentionally interrupted by our comments. Our communication
started with talking about certain topics of our personal life
(icebreaker on the program), which I found rather too personal at
first. But then again, I’m from a conservative culture, so I did my
best to ignore the little voice crying not to talk about personal
feelings with 7 total strangers.
The topics were
printed on the cards which were already placed on our table. The
little voice vanished after one of the lovely sisters shared her sad
experience of losing her husband. The sorrow, the pain, the
emptiness, the confusion and finally, reaching God for help. What a
familiar story. I felt every part of it, so similar, so meaningful.
So this was the whole point, I thought. Familiarizing with “others”,
feeling the similarities, and believing how close we are in our
faith. How we will all reach God for peace in the days of difficulty.
How we can all find comfort in the warmth of his kindness.
card I picked asked me to share my passion with the group. And so I
did. Free from the little voice, feeling God’s love, stronger than
ever, for putting my fears aside, sitting with his believers, trying
to know them and be known by them. I talked about my passion, and
they talked about theirs. Followed by commenting on the speakers’
speeches and the conversation topics our facilitator led (facilitated
discussion on the program), mostly trying to get to know each other,
our communities and our common beliefs about peace, war, justice,
poverty, racism, love and God.
was only an interfaith dialogue, successfully repeated for the 6th
time, but for whatever reason, it felt like being part of a silent,
ongoing social evolution that tends to make the impossible, possible.