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Interfaith Programs

Montreal Interfaith Forum: Engagement, the Next Interfaith Responsibility

Montreal, Canada - Canada's second-largest city was recovering from its first snow storm of the year when, on Dec. 10, 2009, UPF-Montreal held its monthly interfaith meeting at the Imani Family and Full Gospel Church. At the invitation of Rev. Darryl Gray, founder and senior pastor of Imani, and UPF-Montreal, Dr. Frank Kaufmann shared his thoughts on the future of interfaith. In spite of challenging weather, 25 participants attended after making tremendous efforts through the treacherous road conditions.

Rev. Gray, due to a sudden illness in his immediate family could not attend and was represented by Sister Gloria Francis and Elder Lawrence Edwards. Both provided a warm welcome to the interreligious group that included representatives of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindus, Jain and other faiths. Also present was a representative of the United States Consulate.


Dr. Frank Kaufmann, a scholar and peace maker with over 30 years experience in the area of interreligious peace building, spoke on the topic of “Engagement: The next interfaith responsibility.”

After providing an overview of global interfaith activity from 1893 until the present time, noting 1893, 1945, 1970, and 2000 as key times for founding and then renewing interfaith energy and commitment in our current era, Dr. Kaufmann  described interfaith activity as serious and as a front line in efforts for positive progress in human affairs.

To help make this fact clear and comprehensible he identified elements of the structure and dynamics of interfaith relations and interfaith activity.

Elements of the structure include the "vertical" dimensions of the interfaith experience, in which you must relate to the life of faith of your partners and collaborators, and the "horizontal" dimensions, which include the obligations for charity and substantial care for others that constitute equal halves of religious obligation. These paired aspects must underlie sound and strategic thinking for interfaith groups and activity.

The second structural aspect introduced is the tripartite quality of human life, namely spiritual, intellectual/emotive, and physical.  

The key element of the "dynamic" for interfaith identified the need to accommodate and embrace the natural, human impulse to expand and grow. Interfaith work provides space in which our impulse to "testify" is given room and opportunity in a world where conversion and religious imperialism are now recognized as illegitimate.

The talk concluded with reflection and recommendations for new horizons of engagement in which interfaith groups play an increasingly influential role in addressing social ills.

Participants then engaged Dr. Kaufmann with questions and comments about the way forward. Thoughtful responses were also provided. John Linden, veteran Montreal Ambassador for Peace, reminded the audience of the spiritual roots of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was also noted that December 10 is the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration by the United Nations in 1948.

To read Dr. Kaufmann's reflections on the recent Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne, Australia, click here.

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