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!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image