On November 9, 2017, approximately 80 clergy, postulants and clergy spouses of the Diocese of New Westminster joined Bishop Melissa Skelton and the Diocesan Ecumenical and Multifaith Unit (EMU) team consisting of: co-chairs, the Reverend Robin Ruder-Celiz & Thomas Esakin and program coordinators, Donna Wong-Juliani and the Reverend Chris Magrega for Clergy Day – ISLAM 101. The event took place from 9:30am to 2:15pm in the Conference Room at the Synod Office.
This "Islam 101" Clergy Day of learning, sharing, journaling and dialogue welcomed Dr Seemi Yasmin Ghazi as the special guest facilitator, supported by the EMU Team. Seemi is a local Sufi teacher of Islam whose professional life is as a lecturer in Classical Arabic at the University of British Columbia, with special interest in Islamic literature, culture and spirituality, and Islam and Gender. Seemi's life experience and professional knowledge bridges Islam from the east to the west. Seemi addressed a number of subjects but unfortunately time was short and she was not able to cover as much material as she’d hoped. The good news there is that this is a first step and there will be more opportunities in the future. There were a number of Q&A sections and she lived into her pre-conference promise that "all questions are acceptable-no questions are off limits!"
A halal lunch consisting of delicious lentil soup, vegetarian and chicken dishes with rice and sweets was served to almost 100 people thanks to Imam Mohammad Shujaath Ali Nadwi and members of the Masjid ul Haqq of Vancouver. At lunch, a number of mosque members joined several of the table groups for discussion and sharing of ideas creating a Christian-Muslim dialogue experience. The visitors from the mosque were the “ Lunch Hosts” and there were three questions discussed:
- Please describe the role of religion in your life and its effects in the formation of your personality.
- How do you see the role of your religion in inspiring its followers to work with other faith communities, especially in this age of pluralistic societies?
- While children and youth are important to religious traditions, their presence is often less felt in religious places within our secular society. Do you have any reflections to share about this or ideas about how to address it?
The day offered an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Islamic religious tradition, and how we can build and strengthen relationship with other religious communities. There were four intentional “Journaling Moments” enabling participants to write down their thoughts and reflections and also an evaluation form which will be studied by the EMU team and Bishop Skelton in order to plan future events and multifaith programming. Prior to a question period that included both Bishop Skelton and Dr. Ghazi and took place near the conclusion of the agenda, members of the EMU team handed on sheets containing lists of Sunni mosques, Shia mosques and Sufi meditation centres and orders in the Lower Mainland as a way of guiding the clergy present toward future connections within their neighbourhoods.
A question during the afternoon Q&A fron Pastor Tim Dutcher-WallsServing the lunch Lunch discussions The Reverend Chris Magrega hands out the lists of Lower Mainland Muslim Faith Communities Dr Ghazi and Bishop Skelton