Manitoba

Winnipeg woman inviting Muslim community in for tea

A woman is encouraging her fellow Winnipeggers to open their doors and put on the kettle as a way of reaching out to the Muslim community.

'Have tea with me' initiative provides positive response to backlash toward Muslims, organizer says

Mary Macdonald started "Have tea with me" as a way of meeting with and strengthening ties between Winnipeggers and women in the Muslim community. (CBC)

A woman is encouraging her fellow Winnipeggers to open their doors and put on the kettle as a way of reaching out to the Muslim community.

Mary Macdonald came up with the idea for "Have tea with me" just this week. The initiative asks Winnipeggers to invite Muslims, specifically women, into their homes to share tea and stories.

She's hoping other Winnipeggers take heed and do the same.

"We feel that's a great way to push back [at] what we see happening — that is, to create new bonds of friendship and connection and understanding," Macdonald said. "The more of those we make, we feel that makes our society stronger and it can work against these other forces we see rising."

Attacks in Paris that left 129 dead and dozens more injured have stoked fears of further ISIS-style shootings and bombings.

Rising tensions

Tensions have been on the rise since then, which got Macdonald thinking of ways she could reach out and show Winnipeg Muslims that they continue to be welcomed in the community

"We're all here together and we are all doing the same thing, we are raising our families, we are working, we are wanting a world in which we can thrive and our children can thrive and [where] the future is bright," she said.

The attacks have also raised concerns about international security in light of the wave of Syrian refugees hoping to immigrate to places in the west like Canada.

There has been backlash toward the Muslim community and calls to suspend Justin Trudeau's plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of 2015.

'Come to my house for tea?'

Macdonald said her own involvement in the issue began at an info-session at a church meeting recently for people wanting to sponsor Syrian refugees. By coincidence, there was also a meeting of people from the Muslim community going on in the same building.

"As my mind was turning and I began to think, 'Why are we here to begin with? What can we do that's maybe at the grassroots level to prevent these sorts of things from happening?' It dawned on me to reach out across what is a barrier for many of us.… 'Would you like to come to my house for tea?"

While "Have tea with me" is just getting started, Macdonald said she hopes it spreads and leads to stronger cross-cultural ties in Winnipeg and beyond.

"We sort of need it everywhere. People need in their busy lives to realize the things that we take for granted, we can't take for granted," she said.

"The peace and harmony that we've come to expect in Canada … we can't take that for granted. We need to maybe step out of our comfort zones. [Have tea with me] is based on the premise that the more bonds and friendships that are cross-cultural, across religions and so on, the stronger our community is and I think we all could use a little bit more of that."

The first tea party was held Saturday afternoon. Macdonald hopes it will inspire others to take part.

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