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Edmonton’s Faiths Coming Together Conference Creates Awareness, Compassion and Justice

May 14, 2014

“Faiths Coming Together through Awareness, Compassion and Justice” was presented by the Edmonton Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, sponsored by the City of Edmonton, with support from the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action, and St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta.  Event summary is reported by Rob Hankinson, Executive Director of the Edmonton Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

“Faiths Coming Together through Awareness, Compassion and Justice” held May 1 -4 in Edmonton, Canada was a great success judging by a Sunday morning conference “wrap up” conversation, and the planning committee’s debriefing meeting.
Representatives from six western Canadian (Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria) and Mexican (Guadalajara’s ‘Carpe Diem’) interfaith organizations and councils joined with their Edmonton colleagues in “partnering” our collective interfaith experiences and learnings, and in contemplating future ways of working together for “peace and friendship, harmony and understanding,” according Nasim Kherani, President of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre.
Amir Hussain from California and Christine Boyle of British Columbia captured the imagination of all attendees with their keynote addresses: “Stories of our Faith Neighbours” (A.H.) and “Faith in our Shared Future” (C.B.). These presentations are upcoming on the Edmonton Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions page.
Thirty workshops and panels were offered on topics as widely ranging as

“Improving Dialogue between Atheists and the Religious”
“Promoting Interfaith Literacy”
“an End to Homelessness”;
“the Sweetgrass Journey” where aboriginal women demonstrated their traditional customs and rituals
“the Role of Faith Communities in counteracting Abuse and Bullying”
“Healing- a natural and expected outcome of religious faith, understanding and practice”

Also included were:“Voices of Indigenous Women,” who reflected on the impact of residential schools on their families in light of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission; “Peace moving forward for Refugees and Immigrants,”  stories from those persons who have recently come to Canada; “Deconstructing the arguments of conservative Muslim leaders on same-sex relationships in a legal contract”; and  “the John Humphrey Centre Peacebuilders: Creating Youth Interfaith Dialogue.”
Four films: “the Imam and the Pastor”(from Nigeria); “DUMP, Edmonton’s unique recycling plant”; Manju Lodha and Ray Dirks’ “Leap in Faith”; and the recently released Edmonton production “Gently Whispering the Circle Back”; together with “Prayer Writing” seminars; Expressive Arts’ opportunities; and musical expressions in faith traditions celebrated the “monto” (spirit) in our “pehonan” (gathering place) (Lewis Cardinal, Parliament Board Vice-Chair).
From “Gleanings of Wisdom and Encouragement for the Future,” the Sunday morning conversation among the hundred attendees, a sampling of responses includes:

“impressive young adult leadership”
“strong emphasis on the environment”
“encouraging mentorship of new people on interfaith committees”
“thanks to the academics present who engaged the public square”
“appreciated the feminist dialogical activism”
“enlightened faith communities nourish each other with amazing tenacity”
“this has been a sacred space for all of us”
“we are planting seeds for a better world”
“the dialogue with young people whetted our appetite for more”
“what grieves us about our own faith tradition?”
“there is no shame in being different”
“interfaith must work to attract others”
“We need to be sharing life with our neighbours” – Amir Hussain

The event concluded with a concert by Edmonton singer-songwriter Anna Beaumont including her personal compositions based on the poetry of Rumi, and finishing with one based on words by Marianne Williamson:
“It is my light, not my darkness that most frightens me. Who am I to be brilliant? Who am I meant to be? I am a child of God. We are children of God.”
And then aboriginal Elder Pauline Paulson dismissed us  as she had commenced our gathering, with a blessing, a song, and a prayer for “a better world.”
We look forward to further events and “gatherings” as we approach 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Above Right: Friends from the Manitoba Multifaith Council presented the Edmonton Interfaith Society with a painting and DVD.
Above Left: One of the weekend’s art projects.