North Edmonton Ministry

 Mind the Gap: reflecting on interfaith issues

Our 2021 Calling to Remember to Work for Peace

Suzanne Gross, North Edmonton Ministry Interim Worker

“What are you doing?” asked a young man on a bicycle as 20 of us were quietly beginning our Annual Peace Walk through Edmonton’s Churchill Square on the dark, crisp evening of November 11, 2021.  “We are praying for peace on Remembrance Day” was our answer.  The young man continued breaking into our silence, “My Great-grandmother put up a Tipi in Churchill Square in 1969 as a protest.  Check it out on Google!”  He remained far away, so dialogue was not possible, and we were not able to put together the story at the time.  We resumed our walk to McDougall United Church where we would be reflecting together on State-Sanctioned violence in our communities in our world through the lenses of 5 different faith traditions:  Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Buddhist and Mennonite-Christian.  

Why Faith? ACWAB Dialogue 2021 

Suzanne Gross, North Edmonton Ministry Interim Worker

One week after our 9th ACWAB Muslim Christian Interfaith Dialogue, I am still reflecting on many of the insights that came together for me that day.  This year’s event was a hybrid event – in person graciously hosted by Al Rashid Mosque in their banquet room --- replete with coffee/tea Middle Eastern meat/cheese/spinach pies, donuts and muffins and fruit.  Thirty-five of us gathered in this setting.  At the same time 22 people from across Alberta and even Canada joined by zoom – a benefit we all now enjoy thanks to COVID.  I am aware of at least 13 Mennonites from Alberta and Winnipeg who joined the Dialogue.  

“It is hard to be afraid when you understand!”    Omar Mouallem

Suzanne Gross, North Edmonton Ministry Interim Worker
 
Part of the work of “Expanding our Circle,” as our new Voices Together hymnal invites us to do, involves getting to know people who have different abilities, cultural ways, histories and stories that shaped them, and different faiths, to name a few. It involves welcoming all as brothers and sisters in our human family.  In a recent webinar I attended, author Omar Mouallem shared from his recently published book Praying to the West, How Muslims Shaped the Americas. I asked Omar what advice he would have for an interfaith worker like myself.  He offered that good interfaith work considers each group’s histories as part of the bridge-building.  As well, he encouraged me to explore smaller groups who have particular histories, not just the mainline groups that have greater power to represent others. 

Press Release

Mennonite Church Alberta is pleased to announce the appointment of Suzanne Gross as North Edmonton Ministry Interim Worker. Suzanne will be working to maintain momentum and relationships that have been established over the first ten years of NEM, and will work with the Mission & Service Committee and MCA Executive in discerning, re-focusing and exploring future directions for the ministry. This will include connecting with congregations to explore ministry opportunities in locations beyond Edmonton.


Suzanne is a member of Edmonton First Mennonite Church and comes to this position with a long history of working with newcomers. For the past two years, she has led the NEM Scriptural Reasoning Group, which explores scriptural texts with people from the three Abrahamic faith traditions. Suzanne's 6-month term began on September 15.

Hospitality, Dialogue, Peacebuilding and Witness – a framework for building mutual relationships

 

Over the last two months, fifteen participants from Mennonite church communities across Alberta met on Saturday mornings to explore.the “Peacemakers Confessing Christ International” , discussion series.  This is an initiative rooted in the work of David Shenk, Jonathan Bornman, and Peter Sensenig.  

Participants were invited to share the impact of this series on their understanding of the value and importance of dialogue, but more importantly, how dialogue ultimately enriches our own faith understanding, even as we learn about and celebrate the best of each others’ faith traditions.  

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An Anti-Muslim Attack: Reflections from North Edmonton Ministry 

 

It is with sadness and utter shock that we received the news of the murder of four members of a Muslim family in London Ontario. We call out to God for mercy on this whole city, on those grieving loss, those now living in fear and those walking in solidarity with them. I was reassured that the Valleyview Mennonite Church in London would be present at the Tuesday evening vigil.

In the face of great evil, the Psalms call us to name it and lament. Here from Psalms 10 we read, "Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless. Rise up O Lord, O God, lift up your hand, do not forget the oppressed. Why do the wicked renounce God and say in their hearts, "You will not call us to account". But [God] you do see!  Indeed you note the trouble and grief that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you, you have been the helper of the orphan. The Lord is king forever and ever,... O Lord you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed.”

Some have said that this is not our Canada, but let's name it. It is very very real! This is Canada. Hate crimes in Canada took a huge jump up in 2017. Today many Canadian Muslims are feeling unsafe, angry, terrified and hoping their young children don't hear about this. But sadly they are not surprised. Many have been the victims of hate crimes already. It is like a huge iceberg of hate crimes they are already experiencing, and every once in a while one shows above the surface of the iceberg like the Montreal mosque shooting or the London murders for example.

Monday evening I walked with a Muslim friend. I cried when I thought about her 10-year-old daughter. She has worked hard to instil pride in her daughter about being Muslim. There are so many things she can't tell her. Now this.

There is a woman who lived in our apartments for 20 years. She looks much like I do and just younger than I. I chat with her whenever we meet. That is all. One night she realized I had studied Islam and for an hour she asked me question after question about Muslims and I answered the best I could. Finally I said, "So all these years you have lived with about 1/3 of the people in these buildings being Muslim. Did you ever ask them about their faith?" "Oh, no", she said, "that would not be proper." She had refused to pick up the negative stereotypes about Muslims, so if she had engaged them she would have been very respectful. That is our Canadian problem: Political correction and risk aversion. Prime Minister Trudeau said on Tuesday that we should smile when we pass Muslim people. No, no, that is not enough! Stop and ask about their school, their children, their work, where they shop and their faith. These days it would surely be appropriate to stop and ask whether they are okay after the London news. By now we know the limitations of politicians to change things for the good and how since 2016, across the border, they can change things for evil. With our security in Jesus and knowing the world is in God's control, and that God hears the desire of the meek, let us engage those God brings across our path. We Canadians and especially those of us in faith communities, can make a difference by connecting more deeply with each other, and standing in solidarity. I think this will also demand our protests and petitions. Àre we willing to be a witness, speaking out for those our country is not taking seriously?

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has called for a national action summit on Islamophobia. Sign the petition.

Donna Entz, NEM

A Closing Conversation

A video dialogue in action between Donna Entz and Suzanne Gross.

Suzanne interviews Donna about how she understands the Holy Spirit-led seeds that she has been able to plant through her ten years of work in Edmonton, on behalf of Mennonite Church Alberta, and how our Mennonite tradition and community is so very poised to continue this work.

Donna then asks Suzanne what has shaped and inspired her to accept the invitation to be Transition Lead as Donna winds down her work with North Edmonton Ministries.