Rob Hankinson, Chair of NAIN presents a summary of Edmonton’s May Event presented by the Edmonton Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, sponsored by the City of Edmonton, with support from the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action, and St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta.
“Faiths Coming Together through Awareness, Compassion and Justice” (May 1-4) was a great success judging by the Sunday morning (May 4th) conference “wrap up” conversation, and the planning committee’s (May 9th) debriefing.
Representatives from western Canadian (Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria) and Mexican (Guadalajara’s ‘Carpe Diem’) interfaith organizations and councils joined with their Edmonton colleagues in “partnering” our collective interfaith experiences and learnings, and in contemplating future ways of working together for “peace and friendship, harmony and understanding” (Nasim Kherani, President of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre).
Amir Hussain from California and Christine Boyle (see May 2014 issue of the United Church Observer) of British Columbia captured the imagination of all attendees with their keynote addresses: “Stories of our Faith Neighbours” (A.H.) and “Faith in our Shared Future” (C.B.). These presentations will appear on .
Thirty workshops and panels were offered on topics as widely ranging as: “Improving Dialogue between Atheists and the Religious”; “Promoting Interfaith Literacy”; “an End to Homelessness”; “the Sweetgrass Journey” where aboriginal women demonstrated their traditional customs and rituals; “the Role of Faith Communities in counteracting Abuse and Bullying”; “Healing- a natural and expected outcome of religious faith, understanding and practice”.
Also included were: “Voices of Indigenous Women” who reflected on the impact of residential schools on their families in light of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission; “Peace moving forward for Refugees and Immigrants”, stories from those persons who have recently come to Canada; “Deconstructing the arguments of conservative Muslim leaders on same-sex relationships in a legal contract”; and “the John Humphrey Centre Peacebuilders: Creating Youth Interfaith Dialogue”.
Four films: “the Imam and the Pastor”(from Nigeria); “DUMP, Edmonton’s unique recycling plant”; Manju Lodha and Ray Dirks’ “Leap in Faith”; and the recently released Edmonton production “Gently Whispering the Circle Back”; together with “Prayer Writing” seminars; Expressive Arts’ opportunities; and musical expressions in faith traditions celebrated the “monto” (spirit) in our “pehonan” (gathering place) (Lewis Cardinal).
From “Gleanings of Wisdom and Encouragement for the Future” (the Sunday morning conversation among the hundred attendees) here is a sampling of responses: “impressive young adult leadership”; “strong emphasis on the environment”; “encouraging mentorship of new people on interfaith committees”; “thanks to the academics present who engaged the public square”; “appreciated the feminist dialogical activism”; “enlightened faith communities nourish each other with amazing tenacity”; “this has been a sacred space for all of us”; “we are planting seeds for a better world”; “the dialogue with young people whetted our appetite for more”; “what grieves us about our own faith tradition?”; “there is no shame in being different”; “interfaith must work to attract others”; “We need to be sharing life with our neighbours (Amir Hussain)”.
The Event concluded with a closing concert by Edmonton singer/songwriter Anna Beaumont. This included Anna’s compositions based on the poetry of Rumi, concluding with one based on words by Marianne Williamson:
“It is my light, not my darkness that most frightens me. Who am I to be brilliant? Who am I meant to be? I am a child of God. We are children of God”.
And then, aboriginal Elder Pauline Paulson dismissed us, as she had commenced our gathering with a blessing, a song, and a prayer for “a better world”.
We look forward to further Events and “gatherings” as we approach 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.