This winter the BBC has reported a wave of killing of Coptic Christians in the Sinai region of Egypt by ISIS jihadists. The surviving Copts have fled for refuge in the Nile delta city of Ismailya, north of Cairo.
The Coptic Church was founded in Egypt by the apostle Mark after the crucifixion, and was the first Christian Church outside of biblical Judea.
ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh — emerged as a would-be caliphate in the Middle East in 2014. ISIS wants to unite Muslims from Afghanistan to Nigeria.
Quietly over the past several months a handful of Egyptian Copts have immigrated to the safety of Alberta and Mountain View County.
Thus, the religious conflict between Christians and Muslims in the Sinai has a Mountain View connection.
Militant Islamic violence in the Middle East and Africa has targeted Christians from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
A millennium ago militant Christians in Europe launched crusading armies against Muslims in Jerusalem.
There is a long historical record of Christians and Muslims fighting each other in battle.
There is a parallel record of Christians killing Christians and of Muslims killing Muslims.
Millions reject religion because of this intra- and interfaith violence.
The Mennonites who settled Didsbury knew sorrowfully well the tragedy of their struggle in Europe with religious intolerance.
These Mennonites migrated to Canada to be free to practise their faith unconditionally.
Briefly, from 1919 to 1922, Mennonite, Doukhobor and Hutterite refugees were banned from entry into Canada because of public outrage that the German-speaking immigrants were Great War enemies coming to Canada to make mischief.
They were called dirty shirkers. They were accused of planning to hog the best available farm lands and to force “Canadian” settlers out.
The Kitchener Waterloo Mennonites pleaded their case with their MP, who happened to be the newly-elected Prime Minister Mackenzie King. The ban was rescinded.
Syrian Muslims have found refuge in Alberta after being driven from their homes by ISIS Muslims.
Muslims claim the same unconditional religious freedom as the Mennonites.
Both modern Islam and modern Christianity are global religions with shades of belief.
Religious freedom in Canada allows Christians to live side by side with Christians who practise other shades of faith.
In the same spirit, Canadians could acknowledge the shades of belief in Islam and that a tiny minority world wide of militant jihadists are not the sole voice of Islam.
Christianity with 2.2 billion adherents and Islam with 1.6 billion are the largest religions in the world. They are also first and second in Canada with 23 million Christians and 1.5 million Muslims.
A bridge is needed between Canada’s two largest faiths, similar to the bridge built between Christians and Jews in the 1960s and 1970s.
The answer is not political, as the furor in Parliament over M-103 aptly demonstrates.
The bridge could start with Christians reaching out to Muslims in the spirit of the “first and greatest commandment” to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Islam is a faith of obedience, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and charity. In that spirit, Muslims might be receptive to the friendship and fellowship of Christians.
– Frank Dabbs is a veteran political and business journalist, author of four books and editor of several more.