Intercultural group brings interfaith dialogue to St. Albert

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Three religious leaders discuss responses to violence

Religious leaders of different faiths came together in St. Albert to promote peace and religious unity at the St. Albert United Church.

On Wednesday night a rabbi, a minister and a Muslim chaplain for the Canadian Forces gathered at the St. Albert United Church in front of a crowd of a few dozen people to educate the public on the perceived relationship between violence and religion.

The minister of the St. Albert United Church Mervin Gallant said he brought the group in to help combat stereotypes and misleading notions that religions are violent and are sparring with each other. He said that it was important to host the event because many people who are not part of the faith community only understand the relationship between religion and violence through what they see on television or on social media.

“We are the silent majority trying to make a difference.” Rev. Gallant said. “Violence is so against what all of our religions stand for.”

Gallant decided to host the event partly because of the Quebec City mosque shooting and party because of the anti-Muslim and immigrant sentiment he sees growing after the American election.

The event opened with Rabbi Daniel Friedman, Reverend Don Koots and Chaplain Ishak Yorganci each sharing their own perspectives in response to the link between religions and violence.

Friedman shed light on the misconception that religious groups are the only ones perpetrating violence and pointed out that many other groups in history have committed atrocities. He said that atheists were bringing attention to religious violence to distract for their own agenda, such as supporting late-term abortions.

Koots said that the scriptures can be used to support either negative or positive actions and it is up to religious leaders to promote interfaith dialogue for peace and solidarity.

Yorganci focused on the concern he has with religious readings being taken out of context and used to support violence, such as in the case of ISIS. He also urged listeners to separate religion from politics and said that the world is understanding religion through the politics of the countries who practice that religion.

The event was put on in conjunction with the Edmonton branch of the Intercultural Dialogue Institute of Canada and the executive director of the organization Ibrahim Cin said that they plan on hosting more events in St. Albert.

The next scheduled interfaith event is going to be a screening of St. Albert documentary Things Arab Men Say sometime in April.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.