Intercultural group brings interfaith dialogue to St. Albert

Three religious leaders discuss responses to violence

St. Albert Gazette Saturday, Mar 18, 2017  By Jennifer Henderson

Religious leaders of different faiths came together in St. Albert to promote peace and religious unity at the St. Albert United Church.

On Wednesday night a rabbi, a minister and a Muslim chaplain for the Canadian Forces gathered at the St. Albert United Church in front of a crowd of a few dozen people to educate the public on the perceived relationship between violence and religion.

The minister of the St. Albert United Church Mervin Gallant said he brought the group in to help combat stereotypes and misleading notions that religions are violent and are sparring with each other. He said that it was important to host the event because many people who are not part of the faith community only understand the relationship between religion and violence through what they see on television or on social media.

“We are the silent majority trying to make a difference.” Rev. Gallant said. “Violence is so against what all of our religions stand for.”

Gallant decided to host the event partly because of the Quebec City mosque shooting and party because of the anti-Muslim and immigrant sentiment he sees growing after the American election.

The event opened with Rabbi Daniel Friedman, Reverend Don Koots and Chaplain Ishak Yorganci each sharing their own perspectives in response to the link between religions and violence.

Friedman shed light on the misconception that religious groups are the only ones perpetrating violence and pointed out that many other groups in history have committed atrocities. He said that atheists were bringing attention to religious violence to distract for their own agenda, such as supporting late-term abortions.

Koots said that the scriptures can be used to support either negative or positive actions and it is up to religious leaders to promote interfaith dialogue for peace and solidarity.

Yorganci focused on the concern he has with religious readings being taken out of context and used to support violence, such as in the case of ISIS. He also urged listeners to separate religion from politics and said that the world is understanding religion through the politics of the countries who practice that religion.

The event was put on in conjunction with the Edmonton branch of the Intercultural Dialogue Institute of Canada and the executive director of the organization Ibrahim Cin said that they plan on hosting more events in St. Albert.

The next scheduled interfaith event is going to be a screening of St. Albert documentary Things Arab Men Say sometime in April.



By Diversity Magazine Edmonton

The Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) a non-profit organization whose purpose is to advance social cohesion via personal interactions by promoting respect and mutual understanding among people of all cultures and faiths through dialogue and partnerships held its 2016 Art of Living together on Wednesday the 7th of December 2016. The event was aimed at bringing people of diverse background together through art, to dialogue and have a common ground. It also showcased dance presentations by high school kids and awards were presented to high school kids whose Art, movie and essay showcased harmony within the society.

Jessie Lipscombe, the co-founder of make it awkward was at the event. On why the organization of the event is important to him, he said, ‘anything that portrays or celebrates creativity, especially with the youth, it gives them a platform to showcase what they can do, especially when it is talking about what we can do to make the world a better place and how we can live together is something I will be behind until the day I die’. His message to Edmontonians is to always come out and support this type of events.

Rabbanit Batya Friedman, the coordinator of inter-faith housing initiative, was also present at the event. On why the organization of the event was important to her, she said, ‘our initiative is to end homelessness in Edmonton, and it is about building affordable houses around different areas in the community and when we saw the art of living together, it is exactly what we needed to spread the message across the city’. Her message to Edmontonians this festive season, get to know you neighbors, get to know your friends, get to know the person next to you, recognizing that they are different and welcoming them in your neighborhood.

A multi-disciplinary artist, who paints, photographs, sculpts and create digital stories and also an educator, Lana Whiskeyjack was at the event as well. The organization of the event is important to her because of the intercultural dialogue, it is really important to bring different cultures together to talk, because when we start speaking, we start growing, she said. It is wonderful to have an organization that is putting art and communication of visual literacy at the fore front about bringing cultures together, she said further. On her message to Edmontonians this festive period, ‘be open to ask questions, and to answer them in a kind and respectful way. If you are afraid or if you have some fear around different people and cultures, or how people look, ask questions, smile, get to know people, it is really hard to confront fears when you are not open up to communicating and learning’.

City of Edmonton Police Services Investigative Support Branch, Inspector Dan Jones was also present at the event. On why the organization of the evenings event was important to him, he said,’ You know it is great to see communities drive this topic, the topic of working together, the topic of inclusion, the topic of inter-racial, inter-cultural, inter-faith relations for a better Edmonton. When community drives stuff, the Edmonton police loves to be a part of it, because we believe we are part of the community and I think community based policing ideas, the ideas that the police are the community and the community are the police, we re all one, it gives us an opportunity to be part of something great and work towards making Edmonton a safer city’. His message to Edmontonians this festive period is this, ‘we are strong because of our diversity, we are strong because of our inclusion, we are strong because we are a community that stands together. Unfortunately there are some issues going on in our Geo-political space right now, that are creating some division, that leaks up here a little bit and we have to prevent that leakage from coming here. Edmonton is strong because of our multicultural nature, we have people from all over the world, we have indigenous people from all over Canada, from all over North America, from all different places in Africa, from all different places in Europe, that makes us a strong community that learns from each other and lives together well and I think Edmontonians need to realize that we can’t sit down, we can’t take a back seat and let the negative that is happening around the world happen here’.

The Executive Director of the institute, Ibrahim Cin acknowledged the various importance of the event to him. He said, ‘ this event is a contest first of all, and the topic of the contest is the art of living together. We got entries from the students about art of living together in three categories, art, essay and short movies. It is important because they are living in a diverse community, and we are trying to have this peaceful co-existence in our city, and to keep in mind that we have to share ideas about the art of living together with the youth. So this contest, from grade 7 to grade 12 students encourages those students to brainstorm about art of living together. How we can live cohesively, how we can preserve diversity in our city, so they brainstormed and did projects in three categories Art, Essay and Short movies, moreover because of the greatness of the topic, we have students in drama who prepared a drama performance. We had a great turn out, seeing the students of the schools really embracing this path, the event has enabled us to understand that the future is great and can only get better onwards’. His message to Edmontonians is to be more open to diverse communities, multi-faith, multi-cultural communities because when you have the connection, when you have a dialogue, you really explore the greatness of human beings, there isn’t much of a difference between people, leave your comfort zone, have a dialogue with people from diverse communities and you will explore lots of greatness in human beings, he said.