I had the great pleasure of participating in the Faith in Canada 150 Millennial Summit recently in Ottawa. This Summit brought together young Canadians from many different faith backgrounds to discuss how faith has shaped the history of Canada and the role faith will play in its future. More than that, the Summit was pluralism in action. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University defines pluralism as “not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference,” through dialogue, and this is exactly what I experienced. This Summit was about coming together from our different backgrounds, discussing the differences and similarities, and applying our experiences to the shared challenges of being people of faith in our secular society.
Although we did discuss our different faith traditions, it wasn’t only about our differences – it was about building relationships. It was about getting young adults of faith together in a room with trust, safety, and mutual respect, and seeing what happened. And what happened was amazing! We connected, shared, and were vulnerable about the difficulties we face. We were challenged by the older faith voices in the room to live our faith out loud. We explored what true pluralism is in a secular society where tolerance reigns supreme. But most importantly, true and lasting friendships were formed. By the end of the three days, no one wanted to leave! I am pleased to say that this Summit was not the end, but only a beginning. We created a network and are planning future events in our own cities.
It is difficult to sum up this experience in only a few hundred words, so I am going to add some key points of wisdom that I gleaned throughout this experience:
- There is a grace in being able to have uncomfortable conversations. Dialogue is the key to opening understanding.
- There is a need to surround ourselves with those who think differently from us. The echo chamber does not challenge you or allow you to grow.
- Tolerance and pluralism are not the same thing. Most of us felt that older generations tolerated people of other faiths, but did not embrace pluralism. We are committed to exploring what true pluralism and inter-faith dialogue is in Canada.
- Fighting for another’s rights is a fundamental part of being Canadian. When we fight for another’s rights, we fight for our own rights. Fighting for and protecting freedom of religion for all groups in Canada is key to increasing pluralism.
- Faith and science are not incompatible. Many people of faith believe in science, but are not defined by it and do not place their complete trust in its findings.
- Living in harmony with each other and the land is key to our future. We need to adopt the First People’s attitude of looking 7 generations ahead when making decisions.
- Faith has always been important to the people of Canada, from the indigenous groups, to the newcomers, people of faith have helped build this country. We need to protect the rights of people of faith for 7 generations and beyond.
One sentiment that has stuck with me was when Rabbi Daniel Friedman stated that, on the verge of Canada’s 150th anniversary, it was young adults of faith who were meeting to discuss the future of our nation. There was no similar meeting of young atheists. So, while Canada may tout its secularism and push for a completely private faith, it is the people of faith who are actively looking to the future and seeking a way for us to live together in peace and freedom for all.