When are our new friends coming? 

Reflections from Interfaith Harmony Week 2018


When are our new friends coming?  So, inquired a participant in the Jewish- Mormon Children’s choir All God’s Children established for the Interfaith Harmony Week. What a lovely example of the kinds of moments the organizers of Calgary’s second Interfaith Harmony week hoped would happen; that individuals from different religious traditions and probably different ethno- cultural backgrounds would find enough commonality, good will and curiosity to move from being strangers to friends.

I participated in the concluding dinner on February 7, the night of one of our massive dumps of snow, it was amazing that anyone came! I was at a table with a delightful collection of folk, Muslim and Christian, from Bangladesh, Turkey, Palestinian, India, the United States and Canada.

Our task as well as eating a delightful feast and listening to All God’s Children was to share significant stories from our faith tradition.

As we sat together around that round table and leaned in so we could hear fully, it was as if we were at the hub of multiple universes, as if each person’s particular story represented a unique universe of meaning making and possibility.

There were stories:

About the importance of ritual and place; how ablutions within the Muslim tradition as well as the beauty of the mosque created peace

How the Koran’s call to peace supported courage and compassion in the face of persecution

How family stories of heroic efforts to rescue Jews in the second world war have spurred attention to inclusion and justice by a grandchild in the 21 century

How the existence of God was proved when, after many prayers, a young scholar was rescued from a harsh tutor in Bangladesh

How an immigrant father’s desire to shape the new home he had bought his children to, lead to active participation in the Interfaith world . . . building the dialogue between diverse faiths

How even marrying across denominations within the Christian tradition can seem like an Interfaith experience

How religions can go through a refresh when historic traditions are turned over as in the story of Peter at the beginning of the Church, where in a dream he is told to enjoy food that had previously been unclean

It felt like a sacred space around the table as stories were generously shared without interruptions and were received with gratitude and appreciation – the beginning of stronger connection, trust and possibility.  What more could we ask for?

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