Image by KVDP (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Finding common ground: On diversity and interfaith co-operation

The proposed Charter of Québec Values in 2013 was a watershed moment for interfaith dialogue in that province. Through their shared concern and opposition to the bill—which among other provisions would have banned the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols for public sector employees—members of different faiths found themselves united in a common struggle.

In the diocese of Montréal, Anglicans marched alongside their counterparts in opposition to the Charter, met to plan a public event underlining their solidarity, attended an interfaith forum organized by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and contributed to a brief against the Charter produced by the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montréal.

“I feel confident in saying that Anglicans in Québec reacted strongly against the Charter and reached out to our brothers and sisters of all faiths to unite in our opposition,” diocesan ecumenical officer Stephen Petrie said. “Personally, I found the new and far-reaching interfaith discussions were a valuable opportunity to break down barriers and misunderstandings.”

Promoting diversity, inclusion and interfaith co-operation is one of the 10 issues raised in the 2015 federal election resource for Anglicans. With Canada a more pluralistic and multicultural country than ever before, the need to facilitate communication and understanding between members of different faiths has never been greater.

A crucial part of that initiative is the fight against intolerance and bigotry. Along with its long-standing commitment to combat anti-Semitism, the Anglican Church of Canada has increasingly sought to quell the rise of Islamophobia.

For the past two years, the Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman been involved in organizing a citywide Muslim-Christian Dialogue Day in Edmonton, which brought together upwards of 300 residents from Christian and Muslim backgrounds to build relationships and promote mutual understanding.

In his role as Anglican chaplain at the University of Alberta, Sharman has put together semi-regular gatherings of Muslim and Christian students, faculty and staff members (along with members of other faiths) to hear stories of positive relations between the two traditions, counteracting negative stories often seen in the media.

Among the topics discussed at the gatherings have been individuals in Christian communities who helped provide education for former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, and Muslims who sheltered Christians from violence in Iraq during the onslaught of ISIS.

“I think a major factor [in the rise of Islamophobia] is that people have their impressions of Islam unduly shaped by the media coverage of atrocities by fringe groups across the world,” Sharman said.

“Sometimes what results from seeing all these negative images and headlines seems to be a stronger anti-religious sentiment in general, in addition to the specific case of Islamophobia.”

“Anglicans should be concerned because we value religious freedom and the role of religious discourse in public life,” he added. “This is something to be spoken up for on behalf of our Muslim neighbors and people of other faiths, as well as ourselves.”

The notion of free and open discourse is particularly relevant when it comes to criticism of the state of Israel, which is sometimes equated with anti-Semitism.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s Director of Global Relations Andrea Mann said that equating criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism has the effect of discouraging inquiry and undermining efforts to hold a nation-state accountable for its actions.

“It puts people off a more measured, disciplined study of issues and dynamics within the current conflict,” Mann said. “I think that undermines an effective solidarity for peace with Israelis, Palestinians, Canadians and others.”

View the 2015 federal election resource sheet on interfaith inclusion.

Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .