Tag Archives: dialogue

2023 Dialogue: “Help Me Be Teachable Today” – A Reflection

On Saturday, October 28, a group of individuals representing Edmonton’s interfaith and intercultural community gathered in the beautiful fellowship space of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of the First Peoples.

A Common Word Alberta’s 13th Annual Dialogue consisted of Christians, Muslims and Indigenous teachers coming together in a spirit of learning and for setting a foundation of reconciliation. This dialogue took place as global events have brought news of untold suffering and an incomprehensible destruction of life. The Planning Committee wondered how these feelings of dismay and despair be integrated with our invitation to others to learn. By the grace of God, and with the help of Indigenous ceremony in the form of the opening smudge and land acknowledgement, we were brought into the present moment to absorb what we were meant to learn that day.

We were in the care of Indigenous Elder, Fernie Marty, and his helper, Candida Shepherd.  Building on last year’s dialogue on the theme of “Expanding the Circle,” we gathered to further explore the intersections of land, history, displacement from one’s land and oppression and the impacts on the Indigenous people. We learned about our roles and our responsibilities as people of faith living today on Treaty Six land. The theme for the gathering was “Help me to be teachable today.” Fernie Marty is an Indigenous Cree Elder tasked with passing on Indigenous Cree teachings, and holds much knowledge about Good Medicine, medicine that contributes to our well-being including herbs. Yet, with all of this knowledge, Elder Fernie had shared that he wakes up every morning and prays, “Lord, help me to be teachable today.”  

The goal of our learning was threefold:

·         to understand the history that led to the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action (2015)

·         to begin to understand the Medicine Wheel as a tool to help us live into wellbeing for ourselves and every living thing around us

·         to see where we are being invited to do the work of reconciliation through the unending circle of the Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel can help to heal us and the world. As Elder Fernie taught, we engage each day with the cycle of life in the medicine wheel. The four directions of help bring awareness to the four aspects of our human life experience that contribute to our wellbeing: our mental health, our physical health, our emotional health and our spiritual health. Our awareness is the first step to helping us rebalance these when one or more is out of synergy.   

For the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of the First Peoples, the cross, in the context of Christ’s great love or “Sacred Heart,” is at the centre of the Medicine Wheel. All of our attention to experiencing the cycles of life, the cycles of planting, growing, harvesting and resting, contributes to our ability to rebalance our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. And all of this comes from and goes out from the centre which is our One God – our Creator. 

The Medicine Wheel is a way to balance our inner and outer world.  When we reflect on the Medicine wheel, we are invited to consider many moving parts of the cycle and the circle – things happening all at once, all the time. The medicine wheel helps us leave the temptations that pull us out of the center of the circle. For our current collective work, the medicine wheel helps us interact with the TRC, since all of the calls to action fall into either mental, emotional, physical or spiritual incompleteness for our Indigenous peoples. We learned that CBC is tracking the progress on the 94 calls to action at the Beyond the Calls website. This website can help us remember, and encourage our government to play its role in the reconciliation we want to see. 

May we use this powerful tool of reconciliation as we remember our collective past here on Treaty 6 land, as we free people who have been harmed by the settler history of this land to speak their truth. Dennis Saddleman shared his truth in a poem about his Residential School experience called  “I hate you Monster “ — 2022  — where he compares the residential school building to a monster who is hungry to devour culture, language, confidence, and children. The poem ends with a vision of transforming our monsters to reclaim our dreams and stories of tomorrow. As we listen to the truth expressed by our children and elders and everybody in between, may we contribute in ways that allow for all those whose dreams and stories have been snuffed out to reclaim what we all long for as believers in One God.

2023 Dialogue: “Help Me Be Teachable Today”

A Common Word Alberta (ACWAB) Annual Interfaith Dialogue is approaching. We warmly invite you to join us again this year to build on the journey of expanding our circle and allow us to find

interconnectedness and reconciliation with the First Peoples of Treaty Six.

During our time together, we will be guided by our special guests Elder Fernie, and Helper Candida. They will teach us about the Cree Medicine Wheel of Life. Cree Medicine is the element that contributes to a holistic philosophy of health and healing where our well-being is at its fullest and emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental experiences are interconnected.

Our guests will integrate this medicine wheel with the Calls to Action from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report to help us, as settlers, including newcomer settlers, understand our role in the reconciliation process. We will have four opportunities to have a dialogue in small groups. Our time together will conclude with reflections from Dr. Christina Conroy and Imam Sadique Pathan.

We invite you to share this opportunity with your friends and relations so that we can

all learn together what it means to contribute the best of ourselves and our faith traditions to reconcile with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. May God guide us in his infinite mercy and peace.

Refreshments and a light lunch will be served.

Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples (10821 96 Street).

Tickets available at Eventbrite.

Invite your friends on Facebook.

2022 Dialogue: “Drawing the Circle Bigger”

Written and edited by Suzanne Gross and Naz Qureshi

On October 29, 2022,  A Common Word Alberta hosted its 9th annual dialogue. Individuals representing the Muslim and Christian faith traditions gathered in-person and virtually at the All-Saints Anglican Cathedral to engage in dialogue. Scott Sharman and Naz Qureshi  opened with the following context for this year’s theme of ‘Drawing the Circle Bigger’:

“We are asking our speakers to help us understand how our call into dialogue as Muslims and Christians also calls us to broaden the dialogue further. In particular, the way that Christians and Muslims living in this land we call Canada each have a responsibility to pursue right relations with the First Peoples in whose traditional territories we live. 

This topic was chosen in part because of the recent visit of Pope Francis to Canada as part of a penitential pilgrimage among the First Peoples. It also has a special urgency because of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that address religious communities. While some of these calls to action are directed in particular ways to Christian churches and institutions, there are also interfaith dimensions. “  

The guest panelists were Christina Conroy, a professor of theology at Ambrose University in Calgary, and Imam Sadique Pathan from Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton. Four main questions were used to guide the reflections of the panelists, as well as the table discussions where participants shared insights from their experiences and perspectives:

1. What in your respective scriptures/stories from your faith traditions encourage us to take collective responsibility for “sins of the past”? 

2. Can you reflect on the overlap between the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada and messages and examples of reconciliation from your faith traditions?

3. Are there scriptures/stories from your faith traditions that illustrate “drawing the circle bigger” to include everyone as worthy of the mercy or love of God?

4. Many Indigenous Peoples teach that all of us live in a wide web of relationships – to other humans, certainly, but also to lands, to waters, and to what are often called non-human relatives (which includes plant and animal life, and various kinds of spiritual beings). These relationships always come with mutual responsibilities. Please share a similar concept of relationship and responsibility from your own faith tradition and reflect on how it is relevant to dialogue and reconciliation.

The panel discussion from the two panelists was thought provoking and engaging. After each table discussion, a representative was asked to share key insights. Collectively, a few themes emerged that are summarized below.

Although our different scriptures do not all include a concept of collective guilt or collective sin, the concept of collective responsibility emerged as a guiding principle as we navigate oppression or injustice from the past. Having settled in this land, those who are not of Indigenous descent, inherit the social constructs and complexities that have arisen from the past.  Christina shared the Christian concept of Jubilee, which is striving to address inequity economically, including returning of land, and Sadique discussed the Islamic concept of justice, and being accountable for our actions. Both concepts invite us to lead lives with a spirit of recalibrating or rebalancing for justice to prevail.   

The Quran starts with us as individuals, encouraging believers to be critical thinkers when it comes to judging or discriminating against others. It calls the faithful to stand firm for justice, even it if is against yourself or your next of kin. The idea that reconciliation is the core work of a Christian can be found in writings of the apostle Paul, in Colossians.

Reconciliation starts with an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and apology but does not stop with simple validation. As Canadians, we need to convey intent that “we stand with you; what do you need or how can I help?” when it comes to reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.  

On the topic of overlap with Indigenous teachings about care of and responsibility for the natural world, our Christina reflected on how Jesus often referred to nature using natural plants and phenomena in his parables.  Who was Jesus’ teacher in all of this?  Likely his mother Mary. Both traditions have stories of caring for the environment, nature, and all created beings. Sadique shared stories from the Islamic faith on the treatment of animals and how in the Quran, everything created praises God the creator – even the rocks – a concept echoed in the Hebrew and Christian Bible as well.  

An observation shared from a participant was that our governments seem to get stuck on apology and are unable to move to taking meaningful action that helps restore justice. One table participant commented: “If government is the obstacle to addressing the systemic issues that keep us from moving from apology to justice, maybe these interfaith dialogues are even more important! “

While a sensitive topic, it was one that needed to be broached, and it was done so in a beautiful manner. 

2022 Dialogue: “Drawing the Circle Bigger” Coming Up on October 29

For the past nine years, ACWAB has played a quiet but impactful role in our community in getting Christians and Muslims face to face in a non-threatening environment for conversation.  In a time when it has come to our corporate attention that our communities are fragmented and we have a real problem with islamophobia, we have found face to face interactions between Muslims and Christians are effective in building peaceful, respectful and loving relationships between differing faiths.

We invite you and interested community members to join us this year in our annual Dialogue Event on October 29, 2022, 10:00am -2:00pm.  The venue this year will be All Saints Anglican Cathedral.  

You can get tickets at Eventbrite here for both in-person or on Zoom. You can also spread the word by inviting your friends on Facebook.

We look forward to coming together as diverse and harmonious communities on October 29th!

You can also learn about our Past Events.

2021 Dialogue: “Does Faith Matter?”

For the past eight years, ACWAB has played a quiet but impactful role in our community in getting Christians and Muslims face to face in a non-threatening environment for conversation.  In a time when it has come to our corporate attention that our communities are fragmented and we have a real problem with islamophobia, we have found face to face interactions between Muslims and Christians are effective in building peaceful, respectful and loving relationships between differing faiths.

We invite you and interested community members to join us this year in our annual Dialogue Event on October 30, 2021, 9:30am -1:00pm.  The venue for the in person component this year will be Al Rashid Mosque.  There is a zoom option to join.  Either way, participants will be welcomed and given an opportunity to interact on the topic of “Does Faith Matter?”  We will hear from four (younger) individuals from both faith traditions, followed by facilitated table discussions on this topic. 

You and your community members are invited to register for this event and share with their friends and contacts at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/christian-muslim-dialogue-does-faith-matter-tickets-167364097521

We look forward to coming together as diverse and harmonious communities on October 30th!

Get prepared for the October Dialogue by checking out these Media Resources

For those who prefer mostly Audio and Video Resources to get in gear for the Christian Muslim Dialogue.

To learn about Islam.

The story of the beginnings of Islam. A riveting account. It is three hours long but well worth it.

The chapter 19 of the Qur’an called Mary has parallels to the story of Mary in the Bible. This is a famous reciter.

The whole Qur’an in one English translation.

https://www.pdfdrive.com/the-quran-a-new-translation-by-m-a-s-abdel-haleem-e22022845.html

To learn about Christianity

Though there are some new videos portraying the biblical story of Jesus with the exact words from the Bible, there are Muslim sentiments against viewing a human portrayal of any prophet, of which Jesus is one of the most important. So I am suggesting a dramatized audio version of the life of Jesus starting with the story of Mary and continuing on to what happened after Jesus was no longer with his followers.

https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/dramatized/niv/Luke.1

This goes on for 24 chapters for the full life of Jesus .

https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/dramatized/niv/Acts.1

This goes for 28 chapters

The whole Bible online is here. Scroll down to find the book you would like to study. http://www.godweb.org/nrs/index2.htm

If you start this movie at 4 mins mark you will start after Jesus is taken up to heaven and see how the church is established.

This is about 3 hours long.

Dialogue that makes the Impossible, Possible

By Bushra

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.

I 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”.

Interestingly 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.

The 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.

It 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.

A typical program at Christian Muslim Dialogue in Edmonton

By Donna Entz, Facilitator, A Common Word Alberta

In the last ten years I have attended Dialogue events in Canada and the USA. The usual format has been speakers being given equal time and then a Q & A for the audience to engage the speakers. Here in Edmonton we decided instead to make it a priority that the participants engage with each other and have therefore designated the time allotments accordingly. The Speakers are there to shape the theme of the event and to be a catalyst for the discussion. We certainly hope that people leave the event pleased with the speakers and how they were challenged. But even more we as a committee long to hear from participants that they had a positive time around the tables in the facilitated discussion period. We try, but don’t always accomplish two blocks of time, each 45 minutes in length.

As to opening ceremonies, we always start by a prayer or recitation of one faith community, and close the event with the other. The first is usually the host community. The last years we have had an Indigenous person doing a welcome and opening as well.

The icebreaker is done with a set of cards supplied by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute. The cards are distributed around each table and each person shares an experience in turn. The cards are topics that help us establish our common humanity before we address faith issues later in the program. Some examples would be: Describe a time that you were very afraid, tell about a favourite person as you were growing up, etc.

The speakers of each community are given two rounds of 15 minutes each. The core of the Dialogue happens in the two discussion periods after the speakers. Here is an example of a typical schedule for our event, based on our 2018 dialogue event.

But in summary, none of this is possible unless there is “a willingness of all faith communities to work together on a continuous basis to form a closer bond”. Let’s not lose sight of this as the beginning point for anything of good to happen through the logistics of the Dialogue event.

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.