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Building Faith in Calgary

Interfaith Harmony Week in Calgary this year will go beyond encouraging different traditions to live together. One of its featured events will explore how different faiths can live under the same roof.

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Building Faith in Calgary February 2, 2017  |  By Jennifer Neutel
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Interfaith Harmony Week in Calgary this year will go beyond encouraging different traditions to live together. One of its featured events will explore how different faiths can live under the same roof.

A breakfast event today will feature the theme of multi-faith families, and how congregations can open their doors to families of two (or more) faiths. It’s part of the Feb. 1 to 7 celebration of UN World Interfaith Harmony week, which in Calgary will build on the city’s already high – and accelerating – level of religious interconnectedness.

Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, a member of the Calgary Interfaith Council steering committee who approached Mayor Naheed Nenshi to proclaim city support for the week, says it will show how faith groups can work together to make positive community changes.

“There is an interest among the different traditions of building bridges, of cooperating together and fostering harmony — which is the word of the week — in ways that strengthen everyone and minimize the intolerance and ignorance people have about religion and its role in civic life,” Osadchey says.

An opening ceremony at City Hall included the launch of a newly amalgamated Calgary Interfaith Council as the central organization for interfaith activities across the city. The new council will have greater capacity to run dialogues between the different faiths, promote educational programs and social justice efforts, facilitate interfaith worship services, as well as host virtual and in-person tours of religious spaces.

But the week will also be a literal opening of doors as Calgarians are invited to visit 11 places of worship in the city to see for themselves how traditions other than their own live faith as part of daily life.

Pulpit exchanges at houses of worship are planned throughout the week to enhance understanding of various religious traditions, including a daybreak contemplative service that embraces silence. Participants can use a passport for the week and receive a stamp when they visit a house of worship.

A Feb. 6 workshop will explore how congregations and community associations can serve as community hubs for service activities and as safe meeting centres. There is a vision to connect community hubs across the city to help people better know their neighbours and create stronger quality of life in their neighbourhoods.

As well on Feb. 6, the generative journalism project, NewScoop YYC is hosting a Story Circles event engaging the community to share how their faith communities contribute to Calgary as part of a 50 Stories of Faith project.

Rabbi Osadchey stresses Calgary’s burgeoning interfaith work will definitely continue once the official UN Harmony Week ends. On Feb. 11 and 12, there will be a fundraising concert called Building Sacred Bridges to help the Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build Project. Last summer, the Habitat project saw Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy working together on the million dollar construction of affordable housing units.

“We are very inclusive and hoping people get a broad appreciation of the richness of the religious traditions that bless our city,” Osadchey says.

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