By Carol Pek
[Saskatoon – December 2019] – Christianity and Islam are two world religions that share a common theological root to Abrahamic tradition. The two religions also share complex histories of conflict and coexistence that span from the Middle Ages until the present day. While the groundwork to build understandings between Christians and Muslims has been laid down by Christian and Muslim leaders, the idea is still not fully articulated in a local context.
Wishing to pursue such an initiative among ordinary Christians and Muslims in Saskatoon, Fr. Bernard de Margerie, a Roman Catholic priest, and Fachrizal Halim, a Sunni Muslim professor of Islamic Studies at St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon, met in December, 2018 to discuss the possibility of having a Christian-Muslim conversation group. Both saw an urgent need to know more about each other’s faith and the importance of developing respect and friendships between the two faith communities.
Five Muslims and five Christians were invited to be part of a small group to come together in meaningful conversation which would help participants understand each other better and develop friendships.
An initial meeting was set up to meet each other and express why each person was happy to be part of a conversation. A co-ordinating committee of four members was chosen to outline the direction the conversations would take.
From a list of seven possible themes for discussion, five were chosen. A Vision and Hope Statement and Guidelines for Inter-faith Dialogue were developed and discussed during the first two meetings in June and July of 2019.
The following meetings explored the chosen themes:
- August – A Gentle Approach to the Christian Holy Gospels and to the Holy Quran; our favourite verse of scripture.
- September – What is most dear to us/me in our own faith and why? The meaning of prayer in our faith tradition.
- October – Questions Muslims and Christians always wanted to ask each other but were afraid to ask.
- November – The group met over dinner to discuss next steps. A desire to continue the conversations and invite the wider community to take part in future conversations was emphatically expressed.
Presenters for each theme were various members of the group. Open and honest conversation was very much the focus of the group. The willingness of the members of the two faith communities to explore the views, doctrines, and barriers that traditionally divide us is a powerful statement that the two communities have much to offer for harmony and lasting peace in our city.
“All of us, Christians and Muslims, live under the sun of the one merciful God (Allah). We both believe in one God who is the Creator of man. …We adore God and profess total submission to him. Thus, in a true sense, we can call one another brothers and sisters in faith in the one God.” – Pope John Paul, speaking to the Muslim Leaders in Kaduna, Nigeria, February 14, 1982.
Participants were Saba Ahsan, Art Battiste, Angeline Battiste, Fachrizal Halim, Bernard de Margerie, Irfan Mir, Abdullah Patel, Carol Pek, and Margot Taylor. The Muslim participants are from the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Sunni) on Copland Crescent in Saskatoon, and the Christian participants are from the Roman Catholic community.