UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Christian and Muslim campers paddle a raft last July at an interfaith camp put on by Islington United and the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. Photo by Daniel Ousta Jabbour

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

By Vivien Fellegi


The spirit of interfaith collaboration can be summarized by a prayer, says Barbara Sheffield, co-chair of the Interfaith Circle at Islington United in Toronto: “Holy One, Creator, be with us as we learn to see one another with new eyes . . . and trust one another in a new way.”

These sentiments are echoed in the Qur’an, says Huda Bukhari, executive director of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto (ACCT): “We have created you so you may meet and know each other.”

The collaboration between the two groups began in November 2015, when Islington United reached out to the ACCT for advice on helping the Syrian refugees it was sponsoring. The ACCT organized workshops on employment strategies, mental health concerns and other topics.

Then the two groups leaned on each other in January 2017 when a xenophobic gunman shot and killed six Muslims praying at a Quebec mosque. “It was a shock — this was not the Canada we knew,” says Zeena Al Hamdan, the ACCT’s program director. A joint candlelit vigil was held at the church, where over 200 mourners, led by the minister of Islington United, prayed for peace and justice.

The shared service strengthened their bond, says Sheffield. In June 2017, the ACCT invited the church to share an iftar, the evening meal that ends the daily Ramadan fast. Islington United donated its space, and the ACCT cooked and served the meal. “By introducing religious traditions and rites [to United Church members], they get to know who we are,” says Bukhari.

In July, the two organizations pooled their resources to create a four-day camp where Christian and Muslim children learned about each other’s beliefs. “The youth need to respect different religious practices,” says Sheffield, “so that when they’re older, we may not have some of the issues the world has now.”

The interfaith collaboration has helped both groups recognize their shared humanity. “I’ve learned we’re all the same,” says Bukhari. “We all pray to the same God; we just use different languages.” Sheffield agrees: “We’re family.”




Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Columns

Courtesy Aurora Coulthard

To those who said I'll only be respected as a minister because I'm pretty

by Aurora Coulthard

A young ministry student says Christians, both within and outside of the United Church, have discouraged her from following her call.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Editor/publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Sharing a meal with friends is a radical act of gratitude

by Jocelyn Bell

"I’ve begun to consider that regardless of how I’m feeling on Thanksgiving Day, the very act of preparing and enjoying a feast is an expression of gratitude in and of itself."

Promotional Image

Video

Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image

Justice

September 2018

Period poverty is a serious issue in Canada

by Angela Mombourquette

The high cost of menstrual products means many Canadians go without. Activists are seeing red.

Faith

October 2018

My church was literally dying, until we returned to prayer and confession

by Connie denBok

"No magic formulas. Just grace emerging through weakness."

Society

October 2018

4 Canadians with disabilities on the challenges they've faced in the workforce

by Diane Peters

Of the 14 percent of people in Canada with a disability, only half are employed. Companies are losing out.

Promotional Image