Brenda Berck

If I were to be true to my 'green' convictions, I would walk each Sunday to one of the two Anglican churches within 30 minutes' walk from where I live. Instead, I drive for 20-30 minutes to reach the church outside of my neighbourhood, whose form of worship and community style comes closest to meeting my needs.

While I am certainly happy at St. Mary's, I sometimes wonder whether in seeking a place that suits me, I am at the same time undermining the efforts of the larger church to live with difference. I readily accept that we are each a child of God, but there are days when it's extremely difficult for me to respect another's God-language when it is so different from anything I would say.

These thoughts were prompted by the fact that expressions of strongly negative attitudes towards immigration are in the news again, and once again, I see a parallel between the language used about immigrants and the language we use in the church about the people with whom we differ. Having been born during the Second World War, and discovered even as a young child through the people who came to Canada post-war, the horrible effects of that particular hatred of others, I have spent a lot of my life studying, and reflecting upon, ways to love the 'Other' or if not that, at least find ways to acknowledge the qualities we share rather than focusing on the things over which we differ.

Imagine my surprise when, in the midst of these reflections, I discovered, on the November page of my calendar, that November 16 was marked "International Day for Tolerance"!

"Googling" the phrase informed me that "The International Day for Tolerance is an annual observance declared by UNESCO in 1995 to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance." Having read a recent statement by the prefect of Rome justifying the expulsion of thousands of Romanians from Italy by referring to them as 'animals', I can see UNESCO's point.

By contrast in France, where the French government aims to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants by the end of the year, many French citizens, inspired by memories of collaborationist wartime deportations have joined protest movements and underground networks to hide immigrant children and prevent their parents' deportation.

If this were only about immigration and Rome and France represented the only two schools of thought, my choice would be clear. But how do I work in love with someone who, following the literal word of God, denies rights to women, to people of colour, and to gay, lesbian and transgendered people? How can I respect the Christians who advocate vigorously for a Jewish homeland in Israel-believing that this will precipitate the Second Coming

If I simply remove myself from the encounter, the problem on the surface will be solved-and neither they nor I will have encountered God through the other. If we try to speak together, will we simply shout at each other? Do we have the faith to put this desire for a true encounter in the hands of God? What if my invitation to dialogue is rejected? Am I making my life too complicated? Or am I simply too tentative, or lacking in faith, to just jump in

I have been inspired by reading about a school in Jerusalem, one of four in Israel that are part of the organization Hand in Hand. Each class has both Arabs and Jews, boys and girls, all of Muslim, Christian or Jewish religion. Each class also has two teachers, one Arab, one Jewish, each teaching in their mother tongue. And the school itself is run by two co-principals, one Arab, one Jewish.

A young Jewish boy, speaking of two of his Arab classmates, says: "My two best friends, one of them is a Muslim and one is a Christian," he said. "For me it doesn't matter. What really matters is what they are like." Another student says: "Sometimes we argue and sometimes we cry. But it's nothing too big. And if we don't face the problems we won't be able to solve them."