[Address to the 2021 Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Canada on June 9, 2021 by Muneeb Nasir]
Distinguished Delegates, I am delighted to have been invited to address the Annual Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Peace be with you.
I am speaking to you in my capacity as a Muslim community leader and as Co-Chair of the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee (or NMCLC as we are known).
NMCLC is a forum for respectful dialogue on themes of common interest between Canadian Muslims and Christians.
The Presbyerterian Church in Canada is a valued participant in this long standing forum that seeks to build friendships and cooperation between Christians and Muslims.
I would also like to thank you for your commitment to ecumenical and interfaith engagement.
Dear Delegates – We are at a unique moment in history, where the world has been disrupted by a global pandemic, and when we must choose how we want the future to be – do we return to our old ways that led us here or do we work for a more just and equitable world?
The pandemic has unmasked the inequities and injustices in our country and the world – from the climate crisis to the social and racial inequities, from the human rights abuses to the injustices of settler colonialism – these are issues that we are being called to provide a religious moral perspective and to address.
History tells us that when our faith communities best model our teachings, we have been the greatest force for common good in the world.
The ability to come together and build shared solutions has never been more important than now.
Our future lies together rather than apart, lies in understanding the differences that we acknowledge and appreciate about each other – not the differences that divide us.
All of us accept the same sacred ideals at the ethical heart of our two religions – Love of God and Love of Neighbour and love for others what we love for ourselves.
Christians and Muslims comprise nearly half of the world’s population, and today in Canada, Muslims are the second-largest religious group.
The religion of Islam is not new to Canada as the documented history of Muslims in this country dates from the mid-19th century.
Thirteen years before Confederation a teenaged bride of Scottish origin gave birth to the first Muslim in this land that was to become Canada.
Today, Muslims are an integral part of Canada.
The relationship between our two Faith communities is of great significance for the welfare and future of our country.
Dear delegates – my message to you today is that we are being called to go beyond the guiding principles for encountering each other outlined in the Common Word document and similar documents.
Living together in a pluralistic society does not mean merely being satisfied with the existence of communities of faith or cultures whose members ignore each other, who never meet or remain enclosed within their own silos.
To carve out a better future, we need to engage in conversations and build relationships with each other to replace the individualistic/ego-centric way that is defined by separation and fear with an all-centered way of being grounded in love, compassion and kindness.
Our encounters must move beyond a dialogue of ideas to encounters between people of our communities where we engage each other in a dialogue of life and a dialogue of action.
These encounters need to be not just a passing phase but should be a lifelong commitment – where we share our joys and sorrows, our problems and preoccupations.
As we encounter each other, we will soon realize that there are many points of convergence between our two faith communities.
It is in these encounters of listening and being listened to that we discover that the values we have in common are so much greater than what has, in the past, driven us apart.
We, both, understand God to be a Merciful God who revealed His Word and who will call people to account for their stewardship over creation.
Now, as we work towards a just recovery from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity in this interdependent world, to act upon that interdependence and make a partnership working together for the common good and to address the issues confronting the world.
Encounters and dialogue are about the ‘How’ and ‘What’ in interfaith relationships.
Our ‘Why’, as Abrahamic religions, is to experience the Mercy of God and to find the Mercy of God in our encounters.
Today, you have graciously invited me to address you to advance the relationship between our two faith communities.
Let us continue to engage with each other in a dialogue of ideas but let us also deepen our relationship and move towards a dialogue of action.
Thank You and Peace be with you.