Regional news

 — Mar. 31, 200631 mars 2006


The South East Saskatoon Interchurch Group (SESIG) recently celebrated a fifteen-year anniversary in an interdenominational service that included readings, song and multimedia presentations. SESIG was formed in 1990 by five churches; it currently has eighteen member churches, including the Alliance, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Baptist, United, Presbyterian, Christian Science Society and Anglican denominations. Other members include Calvary Church, College Park Covenant Church and the Louise Street Community Church. The evening was hosted at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Carol Pek presented the group’s history and recalled how through learning about the traditions and faith of particular churches, old myths and misconceptions dissolved and it was easy to move on to mutual concerns and common ministries. Successful joint ventures included outreach to the broader community, weekly shared prayers for other churches during Sunday services, joint brochures and flyers distributed to the community, an annual evening of prayer and worship and the ongoing dialogue with clergy and laity that brings the community together in emphasizing what they have in common rather than their differences. (Prairie Messenger)

The Third Sol Kanee Lecture on Peace and Justice, presented by the Arthur Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at St Paul’s College, Winnipeg, took place on 15 November. Speaking on the topic, The World at a Crossroads: Dialogue and Coalition-Building between Religions and Cultures, Rabbi Michael Melchior, Deputy Minister of Israeli Society and World Jewish Community, proposed the paradigm wherein Christians with Jews with Muslims create coalitions of values as opposed to the paradigm that calls for a clash of civilizations between the Judaeo-Christian world and the Islamic world. The latter model, he argued, brings no hope for the future. “If it becomes ‘my God against your god’ there will be no resolution,” he said. “First we are human beings and then we are Christians, Jews or Muslims. If peace means to give up who we are, what our identity is and where our legitimization lies, we don’t want it,” he said. He noted that if the question is approached differently, with the concept that we want to build peace together, not at the expense of the individual, it might work The Arthur Mauro Centre offers Canada’s only PhD programme in Peace and Conflict Studies. (Prairie Messenger)

The Fourth annual Muslims for Peace and Justice Conference was held in Regina on 26 November. Panel member Dr Monia Mazigh, mother of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was apprehended in the United States and ended up incarcerated and tortured in a Syrian jail for thirteen months until his release in October 2003, said that Canada’s anti-terrorist legislation was conceived in haste and should be revised. She noted that the anti-terrorist legislation passed following 9/11 is an invasion of rights and undermines the principle of due process. “Security has to be focused on a balance of security and human rights,” said Riazuddin Ahmed, president of Muslims for Peace and Justice and member of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable that advises the federal minister on security issues. “We have to get involved,” he said, noting that if Muslims want to be respected “we have to show respect for others.” A panel on extremism and the role of the media featured Faisal Kutty, a partner in a Toronto law firm and a member of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations; former University of Regina professor Dr Jim Harding; CTV Regina news director Carl Worth; and reporter Lama Nicolas. Muslims for Peace and Justice was formed four years ago to create a better understanding of Islam. There are 3,500 Muslims living in Saskatchewan, mostly in Regina and Saskatoon, with smaller communities in Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Swift Current. (Prairie Messenger)

Buddhism and Christianity were the featured religions on 19 January for the second in the series of lectures on Religion as a Force for Good and/or Evil. The series is held at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, sponsored by the Regina Multifaith Forum and the gallery. Dr Ken Oh, a University of Regina religious studies professor described the four noble truths and the eight paths to enlightenment found in Buddhism and said that following these teachings does not bring conflict but peace and harmony. Campion College religious studies professor Peter Bisson SJ, spoke about his experience in a small town near Rome last year, with a diverse group of people of various faiths from around the world working for social justice. How to respond to violence and war and incorporate spirituality in social justice work were among the topics he discussed. In the last of the January series, 26 January, Riaz Ahmed spoke about Islam, while Cindy Newkirk followed with a presentation on the Bahà’í faith. For Ahmed, monotheism is one of the contributions Islam made to the world. “Allah is not just an Islamic God but the God of all people,” he said. He explained that almost all of the fifty-six Muslim countries in the world are tribal and feudal societies “and some justify their tribal and feudal ways in the Qur’ân.” As a Bahà’í, Newkirk believes she is really a member of all religions. She said Bahà’ís believe we are growing and preparing for the next life. “We are one family, we follow one religion and we all have one God,”she added. (Prairie Messenger)


Roman Catholic theologian Gregory Baum, at a public lecture at St Jerome’s University in Waterloo on 20 January, offered a less common and more benign view of Islam. He described his explorations of a growing movement in Islam — the new Muslim intellectuals — that is opposed to the conservative, fundamentalist strain more often depicted in the media. A witness to the opening up of the Roman Catholic Church brought about by the Second Vatican Council, Baum has great hope that the Muslim intellectuals he has discovered will be the catalyst for a similar Muslim reformation. Today, the fundamentalist group dominates political and educational movements for the masses of Muslims in the Middle East. Baum argued, however, that there is a lively intellectual debate taking place in Islamic circles that has been hidden from the TV cameras. “Like Christianity, Islam has many faces,” Baum said. “What is often overlooked is that, like all religious traditions, Islam is enlivened by internal debates and conversations with adjacent cultures,” he noted. Baum gave two examples of leading Muslim intellectuals who represent a more open approach to modern society. Fethullah Gullen, a Turkish mystic, has been an advocate of a Muslim faith that welcomes religious pluralism. Tariq Ramadan is a Muslim theologian born in Switzerland of Egyptian parents. He sees no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim yet fully participating in Western democracy. Baum urged Christians to become better informed about the broader strains of thought in Islam and to “support the humanism implicit in the Muslim tradition.” (The Catholic Register)

Dr David Novak, professor of Jewish studies at the University of Toronto spoke on January 29 at the Newman Centre of the U of T campus on Recognizing Religion in Secular Society. While Novak observed that “an important segment of Canadian and US secular society holds the view that religion and the religious convictions of citizens have no place whatsoever in public discourse and particularly in discussions of public policy with moral implications,” he noted that most religious beliefs cannot be limited to private devotions and rituals. They also deal with human interpersonal relationships, which then have a bearing on how people work together to shape their own society. Novak added that Canada is a good example of a society created by common efforts of different religious groups. Accepting ethnic and religious diversity in a society and finding common cause with others of similar beliefs to effect change through the democratic process “enables you to quite effectively present moral points of view in the interest of the common good,” he added. (Prairie Messenger)


St Paul’s Anglican Church in Lachine offers a Lenten Luncheon Series of talks on “Religions and Spiritualities which Surround Us.” The presentations scheduled were for 5 March, Native Spirituality with Mr Bevan Skerratt; 14 March, Hinduism, with the Revd Canon David Oliver; 21 March, Islam, with Mr Bashir Hussain; 28 March, Buddhdism, with Ms Myokho McLean and 4 April, Zoroastrianism, with Dr Dolly Dastoor. Sessions began at 11:30 a.m. with a light lunch followed by a presentation. Everyone was invited to attend. (Montreal Anglican)

The yearly World Day of Prayer features an ecumenical prayer service prepared by women of a different country each year, highlighting the needs of their people. Among the Montreal churches hosting services on 3 March were: St Edward the Confessor in Pointe-Claire, St Veronica parish in Dorval and Transfiguration of Our Lord parish in Cartierville-St-Laurent. St Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Rosemount hosted a bilingual service as did St Joseph parish in Huntingdon. St Barnabas Anglican Church on the South Shore of Montreal also hosted a prayer service. This year, on the theme “Signs of the Times,” Christians were invited to pray for the intentions of South Africa. Faced with the legacy of apartheid and high levels of unemployment, crime and poverty; the increasing number of orphans due to HIV/AIDS, and large numbers of street kids; the continuing rise of drug trafficking and violence against children and the rape of young girls, even babies, the women of South Africa invited the world to join them in prayer. (Catholic Times)

More than six years after their inauguration in 1999, Together 2000 is still celebrating the new millennium, its members stressing the common faith they share in Jesus Christ while respecting the character of each of their churches. Formed from a small group of ecumenically minded people meeting in a South Shore hall in September 1999 to see the old millennium out with a social and artistic celebration of Christian unity, their first event was a carol concert, performed by a 35-voice choir at a shopping mall in December 1999. The core group of Together 2000 consists of ten people from seven churches who plan three regular activities every year — a music-and-drama project, an Advent carol party and a “progressive meal.” They meet at St Margaret’s Anglican Church in St-Hubert, whose rector, Revd Michael Robson, is an enthusiastic supporter of the grassroots ecumenical initiative. This year’s production, Candle in the Rain, will be presented at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in St-Lambert from 21-22 April. The annual 90-minute performance consists of a series of short, self-contained skits and songs around a Christian theme. Donations received at the performances are given to charity. In the “progressive meal” which takes place just before the fall harvest, participants enjoy each part of a three-course meal at a different church. At each stop, people share fellowship, pray for peace and unity, and sing. Last fall, the punch and appetizers were served at St Gabriel’s, the main course at St Andrew’s and the dessert and coffee at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Greenfield Park. This event, begun in 2002, has attracted between fifty and 100 participants each year. The Advent carol parties, introduced in 2001, raise funds for charity and promote Christian fellowship. In addition to planning its own events, the core group also decides how it can support other events put on by ministerial groups and individual churches. (Catholic Times)

In January 2006, the University of Montreal’s Study Commission approved the creation of a major program in applied religious studies. An initiative of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences, the main objective of this major would be to train students to work in three areas: institutions, media and international relations. Every social, medical, academic, spiritual, environmental, political and economic organization faces the need to integrate religious identities into their functioning and development. Moreover, the evolution of society requires the training of informed employees who will take account of the religious phenomenon. Adapting to the social evolution of Quebec, the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences has gradually broadened its areas of expertise so that it now covers not only Christian religious reality, but also other religious realities in their broadest sense. The program will begin in autumn 2006. (Translated from Université de Montréal)

The Table of Abraham brought together Jews, Muslims and Christians on 29 January at the Sanctuary of the Holy Sacrament in Montreal, around the theme “Our Father Abraham.” The event, organized by the Jerusalem Fraternity, included a three-part lecture: Rabbi Leigh Lerner, senior rabbi at the Emmanu-el Beth Shalom Synagogue; Father Pierre-Marie Delfieux, Prior General of the Monastic Brotherhoods of Jerusalem; and Amir Maasoumi, sociologist, president of the Centre for Resources on Non-Violence. A pause for juice was followed by an open forum. The day ended with Vespers in the sanctuary. (Translated from

Posted: Mar. 31, 2006 • Permanent link:
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