There can be peace when faiths intersect

July 5, 2011 | Young Voices
Chris Lenshyn | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Winnipeg, Man.

Canada is a diverse multi-religious society. People of different faiths will often encounter one another during the regular events of any given day.

Farhad Hasan, a 23-year-old Muslim living in Winnipeg, knows that reality well. “I’ve grown up around other faiths,” he says. “I grew up Muslim, I went to a Catholic high school, I work out of a Jewish gym, and all of my friends have different backgrounds and faith. I’ve been around different types of faith.”

Steve Plenert, the Peace Program coordinator at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba, also notices the diverse religious flavour of the global society in his encounters. “My international experience certainly gave me exposure to different perspectives on faith,” he says.

Both Hasan and Plenert were participants in the Conversation Café led by the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute and hosted at the MCC Manitoba offices on May 15. This event involved an intergenerational group of Mennonite and Muslim young adults who conversed about cultural distinctiveness and sought ways in which to learn from each other. The discussion was one attempt of different faiths to relate one another.

The institute seeks to develop “informed, Canadian, young Muslim leaders” and recognizes that “building and sustaining healthy partnerships within broader Canadian society” is important for this development, its website states.

Plenert, a co-mentor of eight Muslim young-adult leaders with the institute, has seen the tremendous value within interfaith conversations such as these first-hand as the group engages with the broader Canadian society. “Everyone who I have participated with in these conversations has come out with a deeper respect and understanding for the faith of the others,” he says.

The value seems to move beyond only understanding the faith of others. “Interestingly, they have also come out with a deeper respect and understanding of their own faith and their own relationship with God,” Plenert says. “Rather than being places of conflict and contention, the conversations have been places of new understandings and new insight.”

Hasan also finds great value in conversations with other faiths. “It builds relationships with other communities and has the ability to inform people and dispel myths, ideas or preconceived notions about the other,” he says.

He also highlights the importance of personal interaction. “You may have an idea of what a Muslim person is like, but sitting down and talking allows people to dispel preconceived notions,” he says. “It helps build connections.”

As Canada is a multi-religious society, both Plenert and Hasan find value in interfaith conversation for engagement with the world.

For Plenert, the value of such dialogue intersects with the broader question of Mennonites engaging larger society. “As Mennonites in Canada, we need to continue to ask what our role in broader society is,” he says, suggesting that a big piece of it involves “loving our neighbours.”

Hasan sees value in understanding the “other” in the globalized world. “With the world being more connected, you’re going to start running into people of different faiths. Getting to know them will assist you in your interacting.”

Chris Lenshyn is youth pastor at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, Man.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.