A "wonderful, moving" experience. That’s how Belle Jarniewski describes the annual interfaith gathering called Together in Silence for Peace.
"Praying in silence is the best way for people of different faiths to pray together," said Jarniewski, president of the Manitoba Multifaith Council and co-organizer of the free public event, which takes place Tuesday, 7 p.m. in the ruins of the St. Boniface Cathedral.
Sponsored by the Council and the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, the purpose of the gathering, which last year attracted about 100 people, is to "promote peace as people from various faith groups bring prayers for peace from their traditions," she said.
In addition to the time of silence, there will be a ceremonial "mixing of the waters," with prayers from the Christian, Indigenous, Jewish, Hindu, Bah’ai, Muslim, Sikh and Yazidi traditions.
"It’s a wonderful symbolism of how we can work together for good," Jarniewski said, adding this is an important time for people of faith to come together to promote peace.
"There’s an explosion of hate in so many countries towards anyone considered different," she said, noting growing resistance to immigration and to "welcoming people who really need a safe haven."
"Those beliefs have always been there, but now it seems people feel free to express them," she stated. For co-organizer Greg Barrett, co-ordinator for interchurch and interfaith learning for the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, which is hosting the event, the gathering is a way for the Archdiocese to "provide leadership in building peace."
Citing the rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other hate crimes, he said times like these require "a response from people of faith. We can’t see these things and simply say they are awful. We need to do something."
Coming together with people from other faith traditions to pray is "a public, concrete witness to action," he said, showing there is "a different narrative, a different set of values, an alternative way."
To those who say it’s only prayer, Barrett notes that’s not all faith groups do to promote peace. Yet, he adds, "prayer is also who we are. If we didn’t believe in prayer as people of faith, would we be people of faith?"
For more information about the gathering, contact the Archdiocese of St. Boniface at 204-237-9851.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.