REGINA — There were 150 of them, they represented most of the world’s major faiths and they were in Regina for the first time.
The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) call their gathering Connect, an apt name, as many new connections were made and old connections renewed.
Nain was established in 1988 to be a bridge builder, said its current chair Rob Hankinson of Edmonton: “to bring interfaith organizations in Canada, the United States and Mexico together on an annual basis to share best practices, common concerns and networking and fellowship.”
That’s something other organizations claim as well, but Hankinson said in 1988 there was nothing. “We were one of a kind. There was nothing like it. We predate the parliament of the world’s religions by five years,” he said in an interview with the PM.
Hankinson said NAIN has 17 identifiable group member organizations. “This year for the first time there are people here who would probably say ‘I don’t subscribe to any faith,’ and that’s a first.” Hankinson said NAIN wants people in discussion, in dialogue who are committed to peace, social justice and what he called the sustainability of creation, ecological and environmental concerns, and the person’s faith doesn’t matter.
NAIN is a non-profit organization that exists mostly on membership fees. Hankinson said NAIN has 75 member organizations in North America and about two dozen associate individuals who pay individual dues. Their annual budget is $12,000 and most of it, about $10,500, is used for scholarships for young people to attend Connect. There is a 22-member volunteer board.
The three federated colleges to the University of Regina — Campion and Luther colleges, First Nations University and the University of Regina — together with the Regina Multi Faith Forum, Multi-Faith Saskatchewan and the Regina Police Service sponsored NAIN coming to Regina. Ken Powers, one of the founders of the Regina Multi-Faith Forum, and Dr. Brenda Anderson of Luther College were co-chairs of Connect.
Powers said a lot of Regina people attended Connect, including many young adults. “In some ways multi-faith activity in Regina has been lagging, so we’re hoping to pick that up and get it moving a little more strongly and get younger people involved.”
The title of this year’s Connect was Restoring Spirit through Sacred Listening. It included several workshops, panel discussions, plenary sessions and tours of several Regina locations including the RCMP Heritage Centre, the recently re-discovered Regina Residential School Cemetery, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the Healing Gardens at First Nations University, and Wascana Centre. There were also opportunities to take part in a sweat lodge, Middle East Bazaar, quiet times of listening to music, a devotional period and barbecues.