Interfaith Urgency: Processing the June 6 Tragedy in London, ON

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The tragic event in London, Ontario on Sunday, June 6 has traumatized many Canadians, and especially Muslim Canadians. In the event, five Muslim pedestrians were struck down by a truck driven by a young white man who self-identified as a Christian. The Afzaal-Salman family had developed a routine during Covid-19 of taking evening walks.

Of the five, four have died and the youngest remains in hospital. While it will take time to understand the complex factors that led to this tragedy (and police are not disclosing very much at this time), it is important to focus on Muslim-Christian relations and lament with and pray for our Muslim friends and neighbors.

I asked my Muslim friend Raza Khan what he would share with members of our denomination and he quoted from Sura 49 verse 14 of the Quran:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

This reminds me of a good biblical and Reformed doctrine that all of humanity including our Muslim neighbors are made in the image of God. From Genesis 1:27:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

This imago dei quality means that we respect and welcome the stranger whom God puts in our path. We care for them and pray for them. Ongoing prayers for the Muslim community are important at this time. We urgently need ways to break down the barriers that come between us through barrier crossing friendships (see John 15:15). It is only through such friendships that we can overcome fear and ignorance in our communities that sometimes lead to acts of hate.  Consider an action that you could take to better understand and build friendship with your neighbours who are suffering right now.

One way to pursue barrier crossing friendships is to join Resonate Global Mission’s Journeys into Friendship Network. One of our goals is to cross religious barriers wherever they exist in our communities. 

Our CRCNA denomination has an interfaith sub-committee that reports to our Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee. Our interfaith work involves support, education and encouragement for interfaith dialogue in Canada and the United States.

Resonate Global Mission supports a new initiative called Photovoice that involves using the common cell phone camera to document different themes in the lives of people living in different faith traditions. This past year a pilot project group of Christians and Muslims met in Chicago (although it was all virtual) and discussed themes such as gratitude through photos. Understanding each other better through sharing our daily lives, cares and worries, goes a long way forward in breaking barriers of ignorance and mistrust.

The Al Amana Center in Oman is a ministry of the Reformed Church in America. They have a long track record of ministry in the Middle East. Resonate Global Mission is partnering with the Al Amana Centre to train pastors in interfaith engagement. The main method used in this training is called Scriptural Reasoning, where diverse people from the community come together to read their sacred texts and discuss them. The beauty of this method is that you don’t need to be a theologian or biblical exegete to participate. The idea is to listen and appreciate the sacred texts of another tradition as well as one’s own texts. When we did a Scriptural Reasoning session on a University campus, the Bahai participant had some wonderful things to say about our text from Romans 12.

Today we interact daily with people from different cultures and religious traditions. This is why it is so important to learn and grow in cultural intelligence and interfaith knowledge. We have lots of opportunities to grow in these ways. For more info, contact [email protected].

For our readers in the U.S. through the Office of Social Justice, the Christian Reformed Church supports the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, which equips faith leaders to work against fear and divisiveness, connects faith groups to address anti-Muslim violence, mobilizes faith community responses, and has affirmed a Statement of Solidarity with Muslim neighbors. They are hosting several events in the coming weeks.  

Prayers for use as an individual or in your church services are also available from Do Justice prayers on June 9th and June 16th

Originally published on Do Justice and written by Greg Sinclair. 

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