Members of the new Pembina Valley Multifaith Council: Left, Peter Cantelon, Boota Singh Ubhi, Zahid Zehri, Kelvin Dyck. Not pictured: Vassan Aruljothi, Mandeep Saini and Ted Peters.
The province’s first rural affiliate of the Manitoba Multifaith Council has been established in Southern Manitoba.
Called the Pembina Valley Multifaith Council, spokesperson and member Peter Cantelon said the seeds for the organization came from Zahid Zehri, an active community member and member of Manitoba Islamic Association Pembina Valley Committee.
“He felt that it would be helpful for the region to have some sort of organization whose mandate it was to increase and simplify communication and dialogue between faith groups and communities and also offer education to the community when it could,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”
The seven member founding board includes Zahid Zehri, Peter Cantelon, Vassan Aruljothi, Kelvin Dyck, Mandeep Saini, Boota Singh Ubhi and Ted Peters. They represent various faith backgrounds including Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
Cantelon said they researched other multifaith councils across Canada and chose to affiliate with the Manitoba Multifaith Council.
“They have a provincial mandate but like so many organizations in Manitoba it’s very difficult for them to extend themselves outside of the perimeter,” he said.
Manitoba Multifaith Council President Belle Jarniewski said they were thrilled to see the first new affiliate develop in the Pembina Valley.
“Any effort to develop and improve dialogue and understanding between faiths is worthwhile,” she said.
Cantelon said there has been efforts made in the past to start other groups in other parts of the province.
“These kinds of things have to start with the community, in the community as a grassroots effort,” he said. “That’s what we are.”
“We’re hoping that as other communities in the province become aware of this rural initiative, Pembina Valley Multifaith Council, and our relationship with the Manitoba Multifaith Council, that it will spark other communities to start their own.”
The group is still planning the things they will do in the community. “Everything will come out of our desire to improve communication and education,” Cantelon said.
They expect to support ongoing initiatives and host their own workshops and events. They’re also open to suggestions.
“We don’t simply want to tell people what we think they should know, but to listen and see where they think the need is, so we can develop as a resource.”
Although the impetus for this group came out of the Winkler/Morden area, Cantelon said they want to serve the whole region.
“We want to communicate with Carman, Altona, Gretna, Plum Coulee, Darlingford, Manitou... all these communities that are generally within the gravity of one another,” he said.
Cantelon said this is not about evangelism, but is meant to allow people of all faiths to feel comfortable learning about others.
Cantelon said there is more space on the board and he also encourages general membership in the council.
“We would invite people who represent faith communities or just as individuals of faith, regardless of what that faith is,” he said.
To get involved or to learn more contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/PVMFC.