Interfaith In Winnipeg
Catholic multifaith activist helps interfaith dialogue to blossom at the parish level in Western Canada
By Paul McKenna
"God cannot be contained or controlled in one faith tradition...even if we were able to gather all our knowledge of God together from all the world's faith traditions, still we would not be able to contain or control the reality of God."
So said Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber in his keynote address at a multifaith prayer service at a Winnipeg parish.
In tune with the Catholic Church's new openness to other faiths, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Winnipeg has become a place of welcome to Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Protestant Christians, Unitarians, Bahai's, Muslims, Native Peoples and other of God's children.
The parish's annual multifaith prayer services are conducted in a wonderful environment of hospitality, fellowship and mutual respect. Participants pray together using rituals and symbols from their many faith traditions. There is song and dance, chanting and meditation, and the reading of scripture.
Parishioner Farida Lalbiharie is one of a number of key interfaith activists who have caused interreligious dialogue to blossom in this city in Western Canada.
Farida's interfaith pilgrimage began decades ago in her native Trinidad where she grew up with exposure to people of numerous faiths. Fast forward to 1987 when she began inviting people of various faiths to her home in Winnipeg for reflection and prayer.
In 1997, inspired by the death of Mother Teresa who ministered to the peoples of multifaith India, Farida decided to take her interfaith commitment into the public realm. Together with her prayer group at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, she initiated the parish-sponsored multifaith prayer service that has become an annual event. The group consults with the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Desk, which provides them with a number of interfaith resources. As well, Scarboro missioners have attended two of the annual services.
Farida describes her commitment to interfaith as "the seed planted in my childhood. When I came to Canada, I discovered this wonderful multicultural reality here. My greatest inspiration comes from Jesus' words, 'love one another.' And I am deeply moved by the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan. For me, Jesus' instruction to 'love your neighbour as yourself' is also about seeing God in other faiths and cultures. I'm so grateful that here in Winnipeg, the interfaith seed has blossomed into a garden filled with beautiful flowers."
"We learn so much about God from one another, listening to each other, being in dialogue with each other."
Pope John Paul II
"Communion of the Many Faiths"
Speaking at the group's 2001 prayer gathering, Archbishop Weisgerber said, "Let us then approach each other humbly and happily with our own understanding of the Divine. And reverently listen to and learn from each other's knowledge and experience, and be enriched. Tonight, we have seen so much of the beauty of God in each other's tradition."
Paul McKenna staffs the Scarboro Missions Interfaith Desk.
Archbishop of Winnipeg, Rt. Rev. James Weisgerber, at the annual multifaith prayer service of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church where he gave the keynote address. Winnipeg, 2001.
On behalf of the Jewish community, Bill Weismann accepts the Scarboro Missions Golden Rule poster during an interfaith service at Shaarey Zedek synagogue in Winnipeg. Multifaith activist Farida Lalbiharie has presented the poster to a number of faith communities in Winnipeg including Native Peoples, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.
The annual multifaith prayer service at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish brings together many faith traditions in prayer, music, fellowship and mutual respect.
Native and Hindu faith representatives together give a musical presentation at the service.