Interfaith is no longer all talk

Great article by Stephen Shashoua, Director of The Three Faiths Forum, on moving beyond dialogue.

“Interfaith work allows people to break through old prejudices and get to know the actual person behind the stereotype.”

Most people would probably agree that trying to establish better relationships between people of different faiths and beliefs is very desirable, in particular in today’s multifaith, multiethnic society. We have all seen what happens when those relationships are not working, with everything from inter-communal tensions to religious and far-right extremism rising to the surface. But fewer people have any concrete suggestions about how to actually go about improving the relationships. Interfaith work is a vital part of the solution, if it is done right.

The days when interfaith was all talk are long gone. Organisations like ours, the Three Faiths Forum, now place emphasis on generating shared action between people from different communities – at all levels of society. We work with teachers and pupils, with artists and professionals, doctors and lawyers, political leaders in parliament and potential leaders still at university.

Dialogue in the classical sense is still important, and we obviously want to see more religious and community leaders involved in interfaith initiatives – but we will not stop there.

So this National Interfaith Week, instead of going the well-trodden route of sloganising the promotion of interfaith harmony, we’ve organised an interfaith arts festival. Not only have lasting collaborations been established between artists from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds, the festival allows the wider communities to see what co-operation across religious and cultural boundaries looks like in practice.

With this artistic backdrop, there is a school-linking morning for faith and community schools taking part in our and Pears Foundation‘s faith-school linking programme Shared Futures. We are also running networking events for women and young future leaders.

However, most of our work has little do with artists and festivals, and is about going into schools day after day, running workshops educating young people about different religions and traditions. Pupils get to meet presenters who hold a wide variety of beliefs (yes, including humanists and atheists) and can ask any question they like. There is a lot of myth-busting needed. The number of preconceived notions and simple factual inaccuracies that can be dispelled over just a couple of hours is amazing.

Interfaith work, at its best, allows people to break through their old prejudices and get to know something of the actual person behind the stereotype. This is above all a humanising process, where people discover similarities with those they previously saw as fundamentally different to themselves. And even when there are substantial differences of opinion, people often discover that these are not real obstacles to co-operating and getting to know each other. And they are certainly not a reason for hostility.

We see attitudes change on a daily basis, but it is a long process to really extend these changes into communities and society at large. Lack of funding does not help.

This type of work – call it interfaith, inter-communal, inter-cultural or whatever you wish – should really be part of our national culture. If we want to see a real improvement in community relations in Britain it’s not enough to just wait for things to get better. Interaction between faiths and cultures has to be actively encouraged and facilitated at the outset – until it becomes a natural part of everyday life. The cost of doing nothing is too high.

We don’t pretend that interfaith work is a panacea for all of society’s ills. There are tensions and problems between communities that can’t be solved by more inter-cultural understanding. But by getting over the negative attitudes that keep us divided, we are in a better position to work together to deal with the real issues at hand.

Promoting understanding and co-operation between our diverse communities is a crucial step towards building a more united society, free from hate and intolerance. That is why interfaith work is needed today more than ever.

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Take a SolidariTEA study break this Friday!

Need a break from  exam studying?

Take a SolidariTEA break this Friday December 10th @ 2:00 pm in the SPOKE,  UCC,  The University of Western Ontario.

Come enjoy some certified organic and Fair Trade Tea and refreshments. In order to collectively reduce our carbon footprint and respect our environment please bring your own mug or thermos.

Brought to you by:
The Tzedaka-Sadaqah Project
The Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning (King’s University College)

What is a SolidariTea?

SolidariTeas are gatherings held across the world bringing together people of diverse faiths and backgrounds to help tackle extreme poverty. Hosting a SolidariTea is an easy way to gather people in a fun and meaningful way. At work, at school, under a tree, in a dorm room, in the morning, afternoon or evening – we’re asking people of diverse faiths and backgrounds, to gather together to demonstrate solidarity. By bringing people together around a cup of tea, you can raise awareness and funds to help bring about a historic end to extreme poverty.

Coming together to end extreme poverty – The Millennium
Development Goals
Ten years ago in September 2000, 192 nations agreed upon eight goals for tackling the scandal of global poverty before 2015. These Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are arguably the clearest expression of globally shared values at work since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They constitute an unbreakable promise to the world’s most vulnerable. None of these MDGs can be achieved without a global movement behind it.

Faiths Act
Faiths Act, the multi-faith social action programme of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, is an opportunity for people across the globe to help the international community achieve the MDGs. Faiths Act mobilises people of faith in over 100 countries to work together to raise funds and awareness to make progress toward these vital goals, with a particular focus on the elimination of deaths from malaria. In the process, they demonstrate the power of compassionate action and show that faith communities can do so much more together than they can achieve apart. Our signature campaign is the elimination of deaths from malaria (MDG 6), but the Faiths Act movement engages with a whole range of issues that relate to preventable diseases and extreme poverty.

UN International Human Rights Day (10th Dec) & UN Human Solidarity Day (20th Dec)
UN International Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on the 10th December. The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on 10th December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights.

In September 2000, world leaders identified Solidarity as one of the fundamental values essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and emphasised that “Global challenges must be managed in a way that distributes the costs and burdens fairly in accordance with basic principles of equity and social justice. Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.” In the context of globalisation and the challenge of growing inequality, the strengthening of international solidarity and cooperation is indispensable for the realization of the MDGs.

Convinced that the promotion of the culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important for combating poverty, the General Assembly proclaimed 20th December as International Human Solidarity Day.

We’re marking these two important days by asking people of diverse faiths to gather together in the period between them.
This is where people of faith can show religion as a powerful force for good in the world.

For more information feel free to contact Marty at

Hope to see you there!

Muslims and Jews Work Around External Tensions

On the first of August, 65 delegates from 25 countries gathered at the University of Vienna for the first Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC). The idea of 27 year old Jewish student Ilja Sichrovsky, the conference aimed at engaging people worldwide about issues pertaining particularly to Muslim and Jewish communities. The conference lasted for five days and included guest speakers, social events, and discussion committees.

With such a diverse group of students and young professionals, the conference acted as a catalyst for peace – initiating relationships between people who believe in a future of better relations between Muslims, Jews, and others. Discussion committees were separated by: Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia, Education and The Role of Education, and played the most integral role of the conference.

Each committee worked to draft a declaration that will later be combined and submitted to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The declaration will outline and specific suggestions for community collaboration, to be implemented locally and globally, in order to foster a worldwide atmosphere that is more conducive to positive relations among Muslims and Jews. Although these suggestions consciously do not touch on Israel/Palestine, it is hopeful that the mere cooperation witnessed in Vienna from the participants, has acted as a necessary foundation of peace.

In Canada, university campuses are often rampant in highlighting political strife as the only source of communication between these communities, and thus creating a foundation of tension. Canadians are no stranger to this polarization, so how can one expect to overcome this tension on a local much less national, scale? After participating as one of four Canadian delegates at the conference, I believe that events such as the MJC, are just what we need to eradicate existing foundations of tension.

Although the work of anyone seeking to bring together Muslims and Jews in a non-political setting, will be hard pressed to avoid criticisms of skirting the more debated issues, essentially it is this kind of work that acts as the ideal alternative for people who wish to have a more meaningful interaction. Realistically, it is nearly impossible to build a structure of positive interaction between those who wish to focus only issues that they themselves are inapt to solve. More realistic however, is to start thinking of new foundations to build on that do not necessarily ignore external tensions, but instead, acknowledges them and continues to be something people are willing to work around.

By: Bianca Canave,  August 12th, 2010

Official Conference Declaration of the 1st Annual Muslim-Jewish Conference

Delegates from the Tzedaka-Sadaqah project participated in this conference earlier this month in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the conference please click here.

The final declaration is posted via scribd (29 pages) and can also be downloaded here.

Jewish/Muslim Hockey Team

There was an amazing article in this morning’s Globe and Mail on  “interfaith hockey”,quite Canadian eh? Potential for an inter-religious sports tournament for charity in the future? Who knows…

Traditional adversaries make peace with pucks

Their names are Samir and Shlomo, Adil and Albert, and they come from two faiths that make news for conflict, not co-operation. But in a Montreal arena last weekend, Muslims and Jews laced up for a common love: Canada’s game.

“Go, go, go!” a player shouted from the bench as a teammate tore down the ice. “Pass!”

Forget the political arena. In this temple, two traditional adversaries have made peace at centre ice, forging a bond as teammates through the Moroccan national ice hockey team.

A few years back, Montreal businessman Khalid Mrini got the idea of launching a hockey team representing his homeland of Morocco, a North African nation better known for heat, deserts and soccer. Then he set about recruiting the best Moroccan ex-pats the world over. Naturally, he found fertile ground in Montreal – and whether they were Muslim or part of the Sephardic community of Moroccan Jews didn’t matter.

Today, he’s put his vision into practice. He and captain Saad Tawfiq are Muslim. The coach and about a third of the 15 players are Jewish.

“We are succeeding where politics have failed,” said the 48-year-old Mr. Mrini, who has lived in Montreal for 30 years. “We don’t have weapons, we have sweat. And whether your name is Eli or Mohammed doesn’t matter, you’re going to embrace after you score a goal.”

Sometimes, the notion takes some getting used to. Last fall, Mr. Mrini and Mr. Tawfiq were introduced to a potential recruit – Shlomo Levy, a Montrealer and member of the Israeli national hockey team.

As Mr. Levy stood in the foyer of a Montreal arena, his hockey bag thrown over his shoulder, he insisted on clearing the air. Yes, he was open to joining. But he wanted them to know: He was not only Jewish, but born in Israel.

Mr. Mrini and Mr. Tawfiq looked at him. Then they burst out laughing.

“Where’s the problem?” Mr. Mrini said. “Are you Moroccan or not?” (He is, through his Moroccan-born father.)

“We didn’t see a problem – on the contrary, at least he knows about international hockey,” said Mr. Tawfiq, 27. “It brings another level to our team.”

The players say their camaraderie reflects the relatively harmonious coexistence of Muslims and Jews in Morocco; they’re just extending it onto the ice in Montreal. For one, they respect one another’s religious observances. Practices are suspended during Ramadan, as they were during the recent Passover holiday; instead of fending off pucks, Adil El Farj, a Muslim goaltender and financial adviser in Montreal, fired off Happy Passover wishes to his Jewish teammates.

“This team is a nice lesson for the rest of the world,” said Patrick Harroch, who is Jewish and whose brother, Dave, just signed on as coach. “It shows the world that Arabs and Jews can get along through the beauty of sports. We have something in common that bonds us – the love of hockey.”

The players in Montreal range from 19 to 40 years old, their abilities varying from garage league to major junior. Now the team is setting its sights on the African Nations Cup in Johannesburg this fall, where Morocco will face off against equally unlikely hockey-playing nations – Algeria, Tunisia, Namibia and South Africa.

To raise money for the trip, Mr. Mrini is holding a fundraising dinner at a Moroccan restaurant in Montreal in May, where he will offer a typical Moroccan menu featuring chicken tagine. Mindful of ticket buyers who eat kosher, however, “there will be salmon, too,” he added.

Perhaps it had to happen in Canada – hockey serving as the vehicle for two would-be adversaries to join forces and wear the same uniform. But now, Mr. Mrini says, he wants to show they can score, too.

“Everyone knows that if Muslims and Jews get together, they can do amazing things. With this team,” he said, “we’ll prove it.”


Moroccan national ice hockey team captain Saad Tawfiq, a Muslim, jokes around with Jewish goalie Albert Benchimol following a recent practice in Montreal. ‘Everyone knows that if Muslims and Jews get together, they can do amazing things,’ said founder Khalid Mrini. ‘With this team,we’ll prove it.’ Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail

// Jews and Muslims skate together in Montreal as teammates and friends on the Moroccan national ice hockey team. ‘We are succeeding where politics have failed

Article on The 3rd Abrahamic Roadtrip

In a week in which Anne Coulter visited our campus it was nice to read this article published in the Canadian Jewish News on the Abrahamic Roadtrip organized by the Centre for Catholic-Jewish Learning (soon to be Jewish-Catholic-Learning in May). It is great to see the positive programing and activities happening at UWO get the press they deserve.

Muslim Jewish Conference, Summer 2010 in Vienna – Registration now Open!

This conference looks very interesting as I do not believe anything like this has ever been attempted before.The conference is highly subsidized and is looking for students who are interested in Muslim-Jewish relations.

Muslim Jewish Conference August 1st to the 6th of 2010 in Vienna/Austria:

In recent times, most Jewish and Muslim youth have not had constructive  contact with each other, so their opinions regarding one another are mainly based on stereotypes and prejudices dispersed both by their media and society. There is a considerable lack of motivation in recognizing and understanding the wishes, fears, problems, and hopes of their communities.

We are strongly convinced that young individuals around the world would more than welcome such a multi-cultural and multi-religious dialogue. By offering a forum, we  wish to go beyond the borders of our dogmas and enter a phase where Muslims and Jews can see each other again as friends and allies who can together face the challenges that lie ahead. Our collective faith has no name, but is the faith in the possibility of a peaceful coexistence. Although we all clearly know there wont be an easy and fast solution for problems such as armed conflicts throughout the Middle East, we feel determined and convinced to address the topic of lacking communication and contribute to a long term change towards mutual appreciation.

The MJC aims to initiate as well as maintain a platform for discussion and networking about and between Jewish and Muslim communities, to contribute to a peaceful globalized world. This conference also aims towards identifying future needs, challenges and opportunities for finding and formulating shared positions and recommendations.

As such, MJC is a dialogue and leadership project that targets the leaders of tomorrow from sectors of economics, academics and politics in the start of their careers. The expectations are that this conference will:

1. develop an inter-cultural and inter-religious language and interaction between young academics of both religions to reduce preconceived bias by facilitating a platform for discussion and exchange.

2. strengthen a vital interest in improving dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and Jews by reducing and preventing stereotypes and prejudices.

3. establish a contact and networking framework, used by the participants personally as well as professionally and additionally by committees and the annual MJC conference.

It must be pointed out, that the main agenda of the conference is not a political one nor is it a debate upon the validity of our religions. It is rather an interdisciplinary exchange based on mutual respect and tolerance where differences are being acknowledged and moved beyond.

The participants represent a new generation of thinkers, doers and allies, who are connected by their faith in the possibility of a new era of cooperation. Our aim is to establish MJC as a well known name providing real change in the interaction of Muslim and Jewish communities around the world. This conference will be our first step together creating the power to forge a link between possibility and reality and actively shape our future