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Interfaith community there for one another: Religious groups work together to promote multifaith dialogue

Winnipeg has a strong interfaith community that supports each other in debunking religious misconceptions.

“If we hear someone saying something wrong, we have the ability to say, ‘Hey, I actually know someone from that religious group and it’s not like that,’ and help others be educated about all of our members,” said Payam Towfigh, president of the Manitoba Multifaith Council and member of the Baha’i community.

The MMC started in 1950, and it was called the Manitoba Interfaith Council. Three reverends from different catholic churches united to ensure inmates in provincial correctional facilities received spiritual care. Since then, the council has evolved to become a voice for various religious groups. Today they have members from several Christian churches, the Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, and Hindu faiths. 

They all work together to build a just and caring society and promote understanding and cooperation among the different religious groups.

The MMC has four committees. The Spiritual Health committee advocates for and promotes spiritual care for patients in Manitoba’s public health care institutions through information and programs. The Justice and Corrections committee provide spiritual support to people involved in Manitoba’s criminal justice and correctional systems. The Education committee provides world religions information and resources to the broader community to build bridges of understanding between different faiths. And the Community Relations committee builds relationships between the MMC, faith communities, related organizations, the media, provincial government departments, and the general public.

Every year they hold educational programs that are open to the public. Towfigh said they had to postpone most of these events because of the pandemic but could host some of them virtually.

“It’s important that people learn about the different religious groups to increase equality for all,” he said. “We work together to promote multifaith dialogue.”

The Manitoba Multifaith Council strives to create a just and caring society by uniting people of different faiths. Through dialogue and collaboration, they seek to promote multifaith understanding within the community. This vision has been a goal for them for more than 50 years. Essentially, the fundamental belief is that every human being is made in the image of the Creator and has equal and infinite value.

The different faith groups always come together to support each other, in good and in bad times. For example, in lieu of the tragedies and violence taking place in Israel and Gaza, the Jewish and Muslim members of the MMC released a statement to the Winnipeg Free Press addressing the conflict. In the statement, they invited all Canadians to “look for peaceful solutions for these ongoing problems,” when members of the different groups were rallying on Winnipeg streets and in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

One of their major online events this year was held in collaboration with the Canadian Interfaith Conversation. Free to Believe, Responsible to Act touched on a very relevant topic in the midst of religious tensions.

Likewise, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was rejoicing over their newly built temple, several members of the MMC were there to celebrate with them. Towfigh said he was honoured to be one of the first ones to enter the temple.

“We were there even before their own members were able to enter the temple. I felt privileged to tour the building,” he said. “The welcoming and humble attitudes of the presenters lifted our spirits.”

To learn more about the MMC, go to https://manitobamultifaith.ca/.

– Ligia Braidotti, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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