Café helps build bridges
The Interfaith Café brings people of a variety of faith backgrounds together to discuss their questions and ideas in a welcoming and non-threatening environment.
“We had a very good response from people last year. People like to know more about our faith similarities and differences,” said Interfaith Café committee member Aqeela Mohammed, who is pleased with the opportunity to meet people from other faith communities through the Interfaith Bridging Project.
“We had never met each other before and now we are so comfortable together. We want others to have a chance to learn the way we have.”
Mohammed, who is a Muslim from Pakistan, found that she and committee member Harpal Dhillon, a Sikh from India, discovered that they spoke a common language, Punjabi, but they had never met before.
“We welcome people of whatever faith to come to the Interfaith Café and talk and get to know each other. Last year, we didn’t know each other in the group and we might have been reluctant to ask questions. But it is all right to ask questions when you are genuinely interested and respectful and want to learn. There might be some people who think that learning about other faiths will make you not as interested in your own faith, but as we learn about other faiths, we learn to respect our own faith even more,” Dhillon said.
She and Margaret Hudson, a Christian, were interested to learn more about how the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths were linked through a common descent from Abraham.
“We expect to listen as much as we speak at the café. There will be facilitators from each faith at the event to answer questions,” said Hudson. “I feel such a connection with the committee members. It is a great opportunity because you get to meet more often and get to know each other. I remember Harpal drawing a circle to represent all the many paths to God and how that spoke to me.”
Mohammed agreed: “There are different ways to worship but the aim is the same.”
Both she and Dhillon have had experiences in Vernon where they were called derogatory names and felt unsafe only because of their appearance and clothing and they are eager to do everything they can to promote understanding and tolerance.
“We have some people come to the Interfaith events to challenge themselves because they know they need to be more open and understanding. I find that learning about other faiths has deepened my own faith,” said Hudson. “While we hope that no one would have negative experiences because of their faith or background, when it does happen, it is an opportunity to make a positive difference.”
The Interfaith Bridging Project with its programs, including the Interfaith Café, is funded by Embrace BC and administered by the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society. There are more events scheduled, including another Interfaith Café at the Japanese Hall March 24 and concluding with an original drama presentation in the fall. The theme for this year is Life Transitions.
The Interfaith Café takes place Feb. 24 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sikh Temple, 3800 Commonage Crescent, Vernon. An East Indian lunch, prepared by Temple members, will be served, followed by small group discussion. There is no charge for the event. For more information, contact 250-542-4177 or firstname.lastname@example.org.