Like so many of my friends, I have been deeply saddened by events that have taken place in just the past week that have had the effect of marginalizing Muslims and Muslim communities in Canada and in North America. How can Muslims feel anything but less safe in this country today? How can they feel anything but less welcome?
If there has been any ray of hope in the recent events — the attack on a Mosque in Quebec City and the American immigration bans — it has been in how people who deplored them have reacted. My heart has been greatly warmed as I heard and saw the huge numbers of people who flocked to airports and other places to protest the immigration ban. I have been encouraged to hear of Christians gathering in Quebec City and in other cities to pray and hold vigil on behalf of the murdered Muslims of Ste. Foy. I have rejoiced to hear of many who are raising funds and donating to bring comfort and healing to those affected. I thank God for these responses and signs of God’s grace and love in a difficult time. They are reflections of the heart of Christ. I will support them as best as I can.
But still, I wondered, was there anything that God was calling me in particular to do to respond to these events?
Less than a week ago I was approached by some people in our National Offices (Justice Ministries) who were looking for someone to participate in an event on behalf of the Presbyterian Church: a dialogue between Christian Protestants and Shi’a Muslims to take place at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. This three day event would see us engaging in a lively conversation on key issues concerning Muslims and Christians in the modern world.
I hadn’t immediately responded to this request, wanting to give it some thought and prayer. To participate in this event will require me to prepare a paper on a specific topic and be ready to engage in the general discussions. And, well, Easter is coming; it can be a somewhat busy time!
After the events of this past weekend, though, I became convinced that my participation in this event is necessary — even that God is calling me to do it. If recent events have taught us anything, it is that we need to do better at understanding and communicating with our Muslim neighbours. The peace and future of our world may well depend upon it. To exclude or act out in hate against a group of people simply because their faith is different from our own, is never going to make the world a better place. I want to help, not hurt.
So I have agreed to participate in a Shi’a Muslim – Christian Protestant Dialogue at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary on April 24-26, 2017. I will be preparing and presenting on the topic, “If God is merciful and rejects extremism, how do the faithful respond?” I will be speaking from my own Christian perspective. A Shi’a speaker will also present from his or her perspective. (I do not yet know who the other speaker is.) The papers written will also be submitted to be published both in English and in Farsi. Most importantly, we will all talk together. I pray we all leave the event with a better appreciation of one another.
That is what I am doing in response. Please pray for me as I pray for you and what you are doing to respond.