AT RANDOM: An inter-faith journey

Reporter Cara Brady shares her insights into Inter-Faith Bridging project

It was my privilege to be assigned to write the series of articles for the Inter-Faith Bridging project sponsored by the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society.

The project was part of EmbraceBC which provided funding for organizations, businesses and communities to develop multicultural initiatives appropriate for their areas. The projects that were considered for funding included arts engagement, community dialogues, inclusive leadership, inter-faith bridging, organizing against racism and hate, and public education.

The project in Vernon included many of the other elements within the inter-faith focus with a series of public arts workshops, a discussion group that attracted more than three times the number of participants expected, and a tour of local sacred places.

Everything started last fall after the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society received funding. Executive director Carol Wutzke and project coordinator Nola Dibski started asking people from different religious groups if they would participate on the  steering committee.

They were pleased with the response to the idea and got a diverse group together. Most were already community volunteers and leaders. They talked about the mandate of EmbraceBC, which is to promote multiculturalism and eliminate racism in B.C., encourage the full participation of broad and diverse groups, and build trust and relationships that demonstrate understanding and cooperation.

Starting with these admirable, if vague, goals, the committee worked on its own achievable goals. The committee members were eager to learn from each other and to make that knowledge available to others.

The Morning Star was, we hope, part of the public education process. Many people said they enjoyed reading the articles about some of the different religions of people in the area. Someone from a government office in the Lower Mainland saw the articles online, collected them all and put them up in his office for his staff to read.

I approached the interviews with interest and some trepidation. My general knowledge of religion is about average and I respect people who truly live by their faith.

It was daunting to even think of trying to give an overview of religions that are thousands of years old and have been the subject of scholarly writing and discussion for centuries. How was I going to ask the questions that I and others might have without seeming to be rude? How could I avoid making references to what little I know about western religions without seeming to be disrespectful?

It turned out that it was about the individuals were happy to talk about something that was important to them, the faith that shapes and guides their lives. Each spoke only about their own experiences and it was inspiring to hear. While traditions, cultures and religions differ greatly, it was the faith that was the same — the faith that there is a good way to live. I am aware this is a vast generalization, but what people want for themselves and their families is to live with integrity, help make the world a better place for everyone, and to worship God.

All of the people I talked to expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the project and meet other people of faith that they might not have had a chance to meet otherwise. I feel the same way.

The project finale was a potluck supper with a fashion show and dance and drumming performances. Some people are already making plans to get together for a picnic in the summer.

Almost 30 per cent of B.C.’s four million residents have emigrated from another country, one-quarter are visible minorities and five per cent are aboriginal. B.C. has about 40,000 new immigrants each year. There is a Multicultural Advisory Council to the minister responsible for multiculturalism and the government issues an annual multiculturalism report about multiculturalism in government ministries.

So much is being done. The adults are building the pathway the children will walk in the future. Everyone can promote understanding in whatever they do, wherever they are. That they are doing that is perhaps most apparent in schools where children and youth have friends of all backgrounds simply because they are friends.

 

The funding for the Inter-Faith Bridging project has ended now but so many people have expressed an interest in seeing the group continue that organizers are looking for other funding sources. They want to carry the project on and look forward to seeing it evolve to include more people and ideas.

– cara@vernonmorningstar.com