Regional news

 — June 30, 200530 juin 2005


Diakonos House, located in South Edmonton, operates like a safe house for peace
officers, firefighters and emergency services personnel facing crises such as marital
breakdowns, substance abuse and medical emergencies. Managed by a volunteer board of
directors and funded by donations, Diakonos House is modelled after a similar residence in
Calgary that opened in April 2000. The Edmonton house was started by a group of Christian
police officers in August 2003. Benedictine Sister Mary Coswin, the volunteer house
attendant, explains that the operation is ecumenical “in the sense that there are no
religious boundaries or requirements and the board members are of different
denominations.” (Prairie Messenger)

Winnipeg hosted two inter-faith events in March 2005 with distinguished religious
Rev. Sam Argenziano, a member of Interfaith Round Table and Project
Peacemakers as well as pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Winnipeg; Rabbi Reuven Bulka,
internationally known scholar on interfaith dialogue, chair of religious and
inter-religious affairs for the Canadian Jewish Congress and senior rabbi of Congregation
Machzikei Adas in Ottawa and Imam Abdul Hai Patel, chair of the Islamic Council of Imams,
chaplain at the University of Toronto and Ontario Human Rights Commissioner. On 20
February the three leaders took part in a spirited panel discussion entitled: Christian,
Muslim, Jew: Do We Have Anything to Share? The discussion addressed the similarities,
differences and conflicts among the three spiritual descendants of Abraham. All the
panellists endorsed concrete actions such as interfaith blood donor clinics and Islamic
participation during World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002. They agreed that true faith is
not exclusive, that tolerance and mutual respect can be life-giving forces. On 21 February
the three religious leaders spoke with students from four faith-based schools: Al Hijra
Islamic School, the Gray Adacemy of Jewish Education, St. Mary’s Academy and St.
Paul’s High School. Small group discussion promoted enthusiastic conversation and new
understanding among the students. They were encouraged to strengthen their own religious
identity and to reach out in dialogue to others. “We are building a model for the
world in Canada,” said Patel. Argenziano said that rather than a melting pot, each
stone shines brightly in our rich mosaic. Bulka encouraged the students to continue to
interact with each other. “Be strengthened in your own traditions,” he said.
“Love your neighbour as yourself. Religion lives in the hearts and souls of all of
you. Spread that word,” he urged. (Prairie Messenger)

The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism hosted a collaborative Ministries Conference,
combining a meeting of the National Ecumenical Summer Institute and a Shared Ministries
, April 18-21 in Saskatoon. The conference was for laity and clergy seeking
to fulfill a common calling — sharing, accepting, and acting in Christian unity.
Workshop topics included interfaith initiatives, religion and conflict, shared ministry,
working with limited resources, team theory, engaging congregation in ecumenical action
for justice, and living in an interchurch family. John Bell of the Iona Community in
Scotland led participants in song and worship, in addition to presenting a plenary session
and a workshop. A past convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Panel on Worship, he
presently convenes the committee revising the Church Hymnary. Phyllis Anderson spoke at
the conference just days before she was to be installed as president of Pacific Lutheran
Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., making her the first woman president of a
Lutheran theological school in the United States. She noted that the ecumenical movement
has a goal for something beyond cooperation. It is concerned about God, about God’s
will and Jesus’ prayer that the church not just do things together but that it
actually be one. She challenged the gathering to consider the idea of communion as meaning
bringing churches together in a kind of interdependent relationship, in which every church
recognizes the other as fully church. It is “a relationship that expresses and
celebrates the unity of churches on essentials of the faith, and agrees to keep talking
about the differences in the hope of learning from one another and expanding their
understanding of the faith,” she said. She continued with the idea that communion
doesn’t ask churches to deny what is distinctive about their traditions, instead, it
asks them to know and cherish those distinctive qualities well enough to contribute them
to the whole, and asks each church to pay attention to what is cherished in the other
traditions and to be prepared to be enriched by those gifts. She underlined that the
church is not whole if any part is left out and added that “different denominations
needed to share their gifts with one another, including their theological perspectives,
their distinctive practices, and their historical emphasis.” (Prairie Messenger)

Multi-Faith Saskatoon celebrated Saskatchewan’s centennial at their annual general
as representatives from four member groups shared their stories and some of
the celebrations and challenges in pioneering their faith communities in Saskatchewan.
Leonard Dole and Ken Bechtel spoke on behalf of the Mennonite Church. Sharing an overview
of the Mennonite history and persecution in Europe, they referred to their original
agreements with the Canadian federal government as religious settlers wherein they were
granted religious military exemption, given reserves of land to live together, and given
freedom over the education of their children, as well as affirming rather than swearing
oaths. They also listed the negative aspects of settlement, where they were pressured to
assimilate by children forced to schools were German was not spoken and through censorship
of their newspapers. Being a predominantly Germanic culture brought difficult pressures
throughout the two world wars and they found themselves targets of persecution. Bechtel
added that the journey had been exciting and it was wonderful to have similar commitments
(charity, justice and peace) with other traditions of faith. Also speaking were Wolf
Peters of the Baha’i faith, Narendra Bakhshi of the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan and
Nuhzat Rehman of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan. Rehman shared a story similar to
the Mennonite experience, indicating that there were Muslims in the area in the 1880s,
prior to the founding of the province. Now there about 2,300 Muslims in Saskatchewan, of
which 1,000 live in Saskatoon. Rehman described the journey of their nationally diverse
community as a peaceful one, and Saskatchewan a peaceful place, However, after 11 Sept.
2001, that peace was changed with biased remarks and threatening calls which made women
feel unsafe, as their veils or head-coverings made them easily identifiable as members of
the Muslim community. She explained the specific meaning of the word “jihad”
which, rather than translating as religious warfare, means the struggling which
individuals undertake to do their best to serve Allah in everyday life. (Prairie


The teachings of Jesus Christ and altruism were among topics on the agenda when
more than 12,000 Muslims from the Toronto area gathered December 24-27 for “Reviving
the Islamic Spirit,” one of the largest Islamic conferences ever held in Canada. A
fundraising dinner on December 27 featured talks by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the
role of Christ in Islam; Imam Zaid Shakir on the importance of Muslims joining with
non-Muslims to work together on social justice issues; and Umar Abd-Allah, on the
importance of formulating a Muslim identity in the West. (Canadian Press)

Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans in southwestern Ontario have gathered for at
least the past four years during the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to renew
and reaffirm recognition of one another’s baptismal views. Citing the Anglican
Diocese of Niagara’s approval of blessing same-sex marriages, the Catholic Diocese of
Hamilton has withdrawn from the annual renewal of baptismal vows. “The recent vote by
the Synod of the Diocese of Niagara on the subject of blessing same-sex unions has caused
concern with our Roman Catholic colleagues,” said a joint statement from Bishops
Ralph Spence of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara and Michael Pryse of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada. The renewal of baptismal vows did go ahead between Anglicans
and Lutherans. (Prairie Messenger)

MAP, (Mentorship, Aftercare and Presence) an Ottawa-based evangelistic outreach to
prisoners was founded five years ago by Roman Catholic Deacon Bing Gallant. Though an
explicitly Christian outreach, MAP “supports everyone,” says executive director
Fritz Clarke, an ordained Pentecostal minister. MAP provides guidance and support, helps
former prisoners locate shelter and employment, and helps them develop healthy connections
within the community. (Canadian Catholic News)

A collaborative effort of eleven churches called The Compass now services 500
families in southwest Mississauga as not only a food bank but an outreach centre.
Together, the different denominations offer one-step shopping for both the practical and
the spiritual. “The vision of being God’s hands is what we share in common. And
what we share in common is more important than the differences,” says board member
Lorene Cullen. A few years ago, the Baptist, United, Anglican, Presbyterian, Christian
Reformed, Bible and Catholic churches noticed the increasing number of people coming to
their doors for assistance. As the churches pooled their resources to make something more
visible for the needy in the community, they also began working together on fund-raisers
and interdenominational services. The Compass doors open for service three days a week,
and volunteers greet clients, serve coffee, tea and snacks from the front counter and help
as clients shop for items from the grocery shelves. “The dignity involved in choosing
their own food — it’s more like shopping,” founder Liz MacGregor said,
adding that other food banks have since adopted this model. “It’s the warm
reception people get when they come,” Cullen said. “They’re recognized as
friends. No matter what religion.” (The Catholic Register)


Astrolabe and Présence Musulmane Montréal (Muslim Presence in Montreal) began a
lecture series on 25 March 2005 at Montreal University.
The general theme of these
lectures is “Muslim Reform and Muslims in the West.” The first presenter, Dr.
Mohammed Mestiri, discussed “The Scriptural Bases of the Reform Movement and its
Beginning.” On 17 June, Dr. Yaha Michot discussed “Reform in the Medieval Period
Taqlid and Cultural Invasion.” In September it will be Sheikh Tayeb
Berghouth’s turn to talk about “Contemporary Reform — Ijtihad,
Globalism and Collective Action.” The last speaker will be Dr. Tariq Ramadan who will
discuss “Reform in the Western Context — From the Question of Religion to the
Problems of Civilization,” in December (Translated from (Translated from

A panel discussion to take stock of the progress made in relations between Christian
and Jewish communities
took place on 12 April 2005 at the Gelber Conference Centre in
Montreal. Professor Jean Duhaime of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of
Montreal University launched the latest number of Théologiques which had for its
theme, “Jews and Christians: The Future of Dialogue.” Among the panel members
were Julien Bauer, professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Alain Gignac,
professor at Montreal University and Marc-Alain Wolf, psychiatrist and member of the
francophone committee of the Jewish Public Library. (Translated from BPJ)

The Initiatives and Change organization and the Montreal Inter-religious Circle introduced
four guests from Lebanon at several meetings in Montreal from 27-30 April 2005. The goal
of the delegation was to share experiences of forgiveness and reconciliation in order to
facilitate coexistence among diverse cultures and communities, in Lebanon and throughout
the world, through dialogue and a search for paths leading to conflict resolution
(Translated from

The intercultural research group at the University of Sherbrooke (GRIUS) organized
a lecture followed by a public discussion on 18 March on the theme: Secularism and
: the potential for secularism in an arabo-muslim culture with illusions of
identity. The lecture was supported by RIFE-Rencontre interculturelle des familles de
l’Estrie (intercultural meeting of Eastern Township families) and moderated by
Fernand Ouellet, professor in the Faculty of Theology, Ethics and Philosophy. The guest
speaker was Yassine Zouari, researcher in the laboratory of the Interdisciplinary Centre
on Values, Ideas, Identities and Skills in education and training of the Sciences of
Education at the University of Rouen in France. The relationship between secularism and
Islam continues to provoke bitter polemics in Europe (e.g. Turkish entry into Europe,
wearing Islamic headscarves in public schools, etc.) usually fed by misunderstanding and a
desire, either explicit or implicit, among certain ideologists of Islamic fundamentalism
in the West, to impose a common discourse in favour of pluralism in lifestyles and
religious expression and an attitude of self absolutism in religious tradition, which
seems indicative of an identity illusion. The lecture tried to bring light and reflection
to the compatibility of Islam as a religion and culture rooted in history with secularism
understood in its contemporary sense as the ideal of liberty, the affirmation of the
autonomy of reason and the separation of citizenship from religious affiliation, by
exploring the secular potential of arabo-muslim culture. (Translated from Babillard)

People from a wide cross-section of denominations gathered for a silent retreat at
Manoir d’Youville in Montreal on January 14-16. Father Tim Gallagher, omv, an oblate
Master from Boston, described methods used by St. Ignatius in which a passage of Scripture
is read and inwardly digested to seek the implication of these truths for one’s own
life and to evoke a deep response of the heart, as the person praying experiences a real
personal encounter with God. During this retreat, most of the episodes considered were of
Jesus responding to the deepest needs of people whom he met along the way on his earthly
journey. As the weekend progressed, many retreatants were profoundly met by the Lord in
their own places of deepest need, and in some cases they testified that these were
life-changing encounters. It was a delight to see members of the Roman Catholic church,
the Presbyterian parish of St. Andrew and St. Paul, and many Anglicans, drinking alike
from this deeply nourishing well. This retreat was organized by Vita Nova Sanctuary, a
small non-profit organization whose stated purpose is to bring refreshment and new life to
believing Christians and to assist others who are seeking God. (Montreal Anglican)

The St. John United Church congregation in Pointe Claire studied Islam during Lent. The
Rev. Frank Giffen explained that the themes of the Sunday services and Wednesday evening
meetings were: salam, salat and zakat — Arabic for peace, prayer and
giving offerings to the poor. The idea for the study was inspired by a newly published
United Church document titled “That They May Know Each Other.” He noted that
some of the reaction of 9/11 emphasized the need for understanding between Christians and
Muslims — and for that matter, understanding among all religions. As well, he felt
that it was important to come to a better understanding of the things we hold in common
with the faith of Islam. Among the guest speakers were Dr. Stuart Brown, Director of the
Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal, and Munir Mian and Hameed Uddin, religious
leaders in the Montreal area Muslim community. (Montreal Gazette)


A Christian Unity Retreat was held January 18-19 at Villa Madonna Retreat House in
St. John, N.B. The theme: “Christ, the One Foundation of the Church” was
presented by Rev. Hugh Farquhar and Claudette Derdaele. (The New Freeman)

The official opening of Proclamation 2005 (a joint project of the Canadian Bible
Society & the Christian Churches of all denominations) took place April 6-15 in the
Council Chambers of Moncton City Hall. The yearly Proclamation event features public
reading of the Bible. In Moncton, this was done every day from 7a.m. – 9p.m. in the
City Hall Council Chambers until the entire Holy Bible was read. (The New Freeman)

Habitat for Humanity broke ground on its second house for a needy family in
Fredericton on 2 May 2005. The Association hoped to start digging the foundation by the
end of May once building permits had been issued. The house will cost an estimated $80,000
to build. The family will have an affordable monthly payment based on a twenty year
interest free mortgage and will contribute 500 hours of sweat equity (labour) towards the
construction of the home. The New Maryland United Church has sponsored a room in the house
and will collect donations and provide all the volunteer labour for building the one room.
All kinds of volunteers are welcome to help with the build — in construction, in food
preparation, etc. Please call: 474-1520 (The New Freeman)

The Women’s Inter-Church Council of the Fredericton region hosted the Great
Canadian Coffee Party at the Salvation Army Church on 7 May 2005. The Guest speaker Anne
Stapleton, spoke on the topic: Vandalism in our community. Special guest for the occasion
was Councillor Bruce Grandy. (The New Freeman)

The public was invited to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah)
presented by the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum in the Shaarei Zadek
Synagogue on 9 May. The keynote address was delivered by Dorota Glowacka and refreshments
followed the presentation. (The New Freeman)

Posted: June 30, 2005 • Permanent link:
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