“I believe the point of this exercise of bringing to fruition the Multi-Faith Society for Harmony is to ensure people who live here can still continue to dialogue and talk to each other notwithstanding whatever might happen halfway around the world.”
Edmonton Jewish Community
History of the Phoenix Society
Multi-faith group works toward harmony
Phoenix Society aims to prevent hatred
By Bill Glen
Western Catholic Reporter, September 25, 2006
Attacks on local mosques and synagogues have led local Jewish and Muslim leaders to work closely with the city police to promote harmony among cultural and religious groups in Edmonton.
And through the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society for Harmony, they want to use local dialogue and education to build peace and prevent future acts of hate directed at local religious groups.
Following attacks on the Beth Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues and the Muslim Community of Edmonton mosque, leaders of the two faiths began seeking ways to work together.
Eventually, they brought in the police department's anti-hate bias crime unit as well as Archbishop Thomas Collins.
The four groups launched the Phoenix Society Sept. 17 before more than 200 people at City Hall.
"People of common mind and spirit have come together in the interest of common good in the form of mutual respect," said Sol Rolingher, leader of the local Jewish community. "This is a one-of-a-kind society in Canada."
"I think there is strong interest in the total community that we have effective inter-faith dialogue," Larry Shaben, chair of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, said in an interview.
"Quite often when you have this sort of organization, so much depends upon personal relationships that will permit you to be open with each other and talk about the issues that are truly affecting your respective communities."
Shaben said it was important for Muslims to see the archbishop take a lead role.
"From a perspective of the Muslim community, we are very happy that the Catholic Church is involved."
The society will have a board of six representatives from each of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths who will meet four times a year. A number of workshops and conferences will evolve once the board is in place.
Since he arrived in Edmonton nine months ago, Police Chief Mike Boyd has noticed how citizens unite to find solutions to problems.
The Phoenix Society will build relationships that overcome negative stereotyping, Boyd said.
"We are working toward peace in our society," he said. "Making peace is much harder than making war."
Collins said the Phoenix Society is a blessing for the entire community.
"We are to try to understand others more and not to judge them on the surface," he said. "The experiences of disharmony in our community have given rise to something very beautiful."