Interfaith gathering sets stage for ongoing communication
By Deborah Gyapong
Photo Caption: Five imams and five Catholic bishops took part in a meeting at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops secretariat in Ottawa Feb. 14. (Rene Laprise, courtesy of the CCCB)
A Valentine’s Day meeting between the Canadian bishops’ conference and Muslim imams may lead to ongoing national dialogue, says the chair of the bishops’ interfaith dialogue commission.
The climate of the meeting at the offices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was “quite good, said Bishop Claude Champagne.
He said the CCCB Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue commission, which he chairs, “felt the need to explore a bi-lateral dialogue between Catholics and Muslim imams.”
The Islamophobia Motion M-103 now before the House of Commons was not on the agenda, said the Edmundston bishop. Instead, the meeting examined how the two religious communities could support each other and work together on projects such as the recent interfaith collaboration opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.
They also discussed how both groups represent “believers in a society where many people are saying ‘we are without religion.’”
“At the end of the meeting, we were in position to recommend (development of) dialogue between Catholic bishops and imams,” Bishop Champagne said.
Five bishops from the commission met with five imams from the Canadian Council of Imams. At the next meeting the bishops hope to include imams from other cities in Canada. “For us, we would like it to be a national dialogue,” Bishop Champagne said.
The meeting had been organized well before the Jan. 29 shooting at a Quebec mosque that killed six men and injured many more. It gave the bishops a chance to offer their condolences and support to the Muslim religious leaders.
The bishops began working on improving Muslim relations following the 2014 terror incidents in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, involving converts to Islam.
In 2015 the CCCB published A Church in Dialogue – Catholics and Muslims in Canada: Believers and Citizens in Society, a document written to educate Catholics about Islam and caution the faithful against prejudice and generalization.