Faith Spaces – Safe Spaces

Faith Spaces – Safe Spaces

How do we teach our children about safe spaces for all?

"How can we be more visible in anti-racist discussions that happen at the community/municipal levels?  Might we benefit from an acknowledgement of the sin of entrenched racism?"

How do we not only talk about the “corrosive and toxic traits of racism,”  – racism experienced especially by black hijabed women in our Edmonton community?   – “but also take [meaningful] action?” asks Ust. Khallid Yassmin.   Two days prior was World Hijab Day, bringing into focus the fear for safety experienced by many women who choose the outward symbol of modesty. This larger question undergirded the whole webinar called “Faith Spaces – Safe Spaces” presented on February 5, 2022 and organized by members of the Anglican Archdiocese and the Islamic Family Social Services Association Green Room Program.

Presenters were all people of colour representing gender and faith diversity – in this case, Christian and Muslim voices.   The following reflection draws on input from four participants from Mennonite church Alberta: Don Baergen and Ann Berg, both members of Holyrood Mennonite Church, Jake Froese from Trinity in Calgary, and myself, North Edmonton Ministries worker.

A look at sacred texts on the topic of inclusion in our faith and community spaces underscored the common themes in our two faith traditions.  Reverend Akon Accord shared the story of Cornelius in the book of Acts which teaches us that the early church shifted from worry about associating with some labeled as “unclean” to remembering that God pays attention to our heart, and the gifts we share with the poor.  God does not show favouritism! 

Ibrahim Long quoted from Quranic texts that remind us that God has created us all – races and tribes – to get to know one another.  And God’s sign is the creation of heaven and earth, and the diversity of our human colours.  Signs of God reflect back to God.  Diversity of language and colour are signs of God himself!

Rachel Edino reminded us to reflect on our roots.  God is our foundation which produces branches of good fruit.  Adam is the father of ALL humans.

She asked those of us who are not labeled by others as Black or Brown:  “How many persons of colour have you visited with over the past 5 years? How many persons of colour have you prayed for?  How many African or Asian countries in turmoil and violence have you prayed for?”    Do we talk about these things with our children?  What we plant in younger children is so critical.  Attitudes speak!

Ust. Khallid Yassim concludes, “[Antiracism] is not just feelings in our heart – it is translated into a way of life.”  It is about getting to know people intentionally, and reframing our narratives about each other.  And this is where listening deeply to stories of racialized violence by people of colour, by hijabed women -- comes in.

All of this got us wondering about how we approach education when it comes to racism and Islamophobia.  How do we teach our children so that they don’t sign on to racist and Islamophobic assumptions and behaviours?  How can we call each other out -- in the name of the creator of creation and humanity – calling out to hold each other accountable to the values we preach?

In the Jewish faith, Jews recite the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) multiple times a day.  The Shema reminds Jews to teach their children to love God, to remember the commandments, and to remember their origins as slaves who came out of slavery into deliverance!  In some ways, this Shema is like an acknowledgement to remember.  We have all incorporated land acknowledgements into our gatherings, where we learn together through remembering that we are on shared land – sharing through Treaty values with our Indigenous First Peoples who came before us.

How can we be more visible in anti-racist discussions that happen at the community/municipal levels?  Might we benefit from an acknowledgement of the sin of entrenched racism?  What would happen if every day, and in every gathering, we acknowledged and remembered that, to combat racism, we all need to live into the following shared values:

  • That all humans are descendants of Adam and therefore equal

  • That God created a diverse world, including diverse human cultures, languages, faith traditions, and colours – and it was Good!

  • That God cares about our hearts and our actions -- to love through our hearts rather than label through our eyes

  • That we are called to take care of each other and our earth

  • That we were all once “slaves in Egypt” in some way or other and so we need to listen to each others’ stories of pain and suffering.

This is a draft.  It might change every time we say it.  But what would happen if we consciously reminded ourselves of these primary things in order to notice with our eyes, ears and hearts both the visible and invisible moments when some in our midst are excluded from emotional, cultural, spiritual, and physical safety?