Canadian Project Finds Common Ground for Muslims, Catholics

On the surface, it was speeches and a light meal, but on a deeper level it was building relationships

EDMONTON – Local Catholic and Muslim leaders in Edmonton, Canada, have organized a ‘Meet&Greet’ event to create mutual understanding between the two religious communities for a “deeper way of tolerance and coexistence”.

“The most dangerous challenge facing Christians and Muslims is a misconception, misunderstanding, how to deal with the other. You have to listen to others,” Imam Nasser Ibrahim of Al-Rashid Mosque, told Catholic Register on September 11.

Canadian Muslims and Catholics cooperate in different fields like education, social services, housing, refugee settlement, and social justice. Yet, there are new calls on both sides to do more than sharing social issues but to understand each other in a deeper way.

The ‘Meet&Greet’ event, held on August 28, was preceded by a visit to Al-Rashid Mosque from Archbishop Richard Smith in 2017.

During the new event, Smith spoke with leaders of multiple Muslim branches in St. Albert, the historical heart of Catholicism in Alberta.

The event included a tour of the Mission Hill site, including Mary’s Grotto and the cemetery where many Oblate missionaries are buried.

Smith has previously hosted a gathering of Muslim leaders at his home following the January 2017 shootings at the Quebec mosque as a reminder of their shared values and trust.

“My hope is to celebrate decades of understanding between the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Muslim community with women and youth projects that strengthen and give back to all communities,” said Dr. Nahla Gomaa, a member of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, a coalition of 12 faith-based organizations.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) co-operate in hosting an annual Ramadan iftar and a friendship dinner at Providence Renewal Centre.

“Combating racism is an example. Reducing violence is another example. Being against hunger everywhere in the world is a third example,” said Gomaa, a member of Annoor Mosque in southwest Edmonton. “This relationship is aiming at a better society to live in.”

Edmonton is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. As of the 2011 National Household Survey, 5.5% are Muslim.

Al-Rashid Mosque in Edmonton, which was found by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, is the first mosque established in Canada. The majority of Edmonton’s Muslims are Sunnis, in addition to the existence of other Muslim sects.