Baha’i representatives were among those participating in the inaugural gathering of the “Spirited Citizenship” tour held in Vancouver on 28 March. Around 40 new and old friends of the Faith Alliance Network, youths and adults, from a variety of faith communities and organizations were in attendance. This tour, which concludes at the end of the month, will trace its way from Vancouver across the country to Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Winnipeg.
The initiative aims to bring together members and leaders of various religious communities, faith-based organizations and civic institutions to consult on how people from religious communities can work together to “stimulate greater public appreciation for the contribution of faith-motivated activities and organizations to Canada’s social fabric”. The “Spirited Citizenship” tour is an initiative organized by the think-tank Cardus in collaboration with the Faith Alliance 150 Network. The tour is part of its Faith in Canada 150 project which aims to recognize and celebrate the many faith communities central to the formation of Canada.
The Vancouver gathering was facilitated by Mr. Greg Pennoyer, Director of Faith in Canada 150. Featured speakers at this first event included Ms. Shachi Kurl, Executive Director of the Angus Reid Institute, and Co-chair of the Cabinet of Canadians, and Canada’s former Ambassador of Religious Freedom and current Chair of the Cabinet of Canadians for Faith in Canada 150, Dr. Andrew Bennett. There are two Baha’i representatives on the Cabinet of Canadians. Central to the Vancouver gathering, and all future tour events, was an update on ongoing programs and an exploration of two new tour features: a new Angus Reid Institute analysis of faith in Canada; and an early preview of “Give 150”, an innovative web platform that aims to contribute to a culture of charitable giving open to all Canadians.
“Our goal is to tell the story of faith in Canada”, stated Mr. Pennoyer in his opening remarks, speaking to a central theme of the gathering. Mr. Pennoyer went on to comment that as we strive to uphold values of multiculturalism and celebrate our diversity, we must also seek out what unifies us: the fundamental belief that we are brothers and sisters, that we are all part of one human family. The group explored the history and the potential role that faith can play in Canadian society in encouraging a culture that moves past tolerance, to one of inclusion. “How do we live together in difference?” asked Dr. Bennett. With this question, Dr. Bennett challenged certain assumptions that might pervade Canadian society. Dr. Bennett suggested that while we have a secular government, we do not have a secular society. Religious thought and affiliation pervade Canadian society.
One of the many tasks before those of faith, Dr. Bennett suggested, is that all must learn to speak honestly to each other concerning differing perspectives on theological, moral, and ethical questions and see the dignity within everyone - a principle at the heart of religious freedom. It is in this manner that religious communities may be able to overcome a dominant secular narrative in Canadian society, which perhaps consequently fragments and marginalizes faith communities and prevents them from engaging fully in social and public life.
Building on these questions and reflections, Ms. Kurl shared with the group a sample of polling results from a study conducted throughout the previous year that sought to bring to light the reality of religious life in Canada. The polling questions looked at how Canadians think about tolerance, faith and morality, Canadian attitudes toward faith and prayer in private and public life, and how religious plurality separates and brings us together. More of these results will be made public over the coming weeks on the Angus Reid Institute website.
“Tolerance is not enough for us”, stated Mr. Pennoyer in closing the gathering, “We believe we have common ground on which to live as neighbors.”
Many avenues of action are being supported by Cardus and the Faith Alliance. A few key areas of programmatic activity are noted here:
The Faith in Canada 150 Millennial Summit: the culmination of a series of regional gatherings held over the last year with dynamic Canadian leaders born approximately between 1980 and 2000. The Summit’s purpose is to bring together 75 Canadians of differing faith convictions in Canada’s capital city on the eve of Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. Together, millennials from across the country will address pressing questions related to the place of faith in public life, the true nature of pluralism, and the meaning of religious freedom. (www.faithincanada150.ca/events/millennials-conference-2017/)
Give 150: a web-based initiative in partnership with Chimp.net meant to identify 2,500 Caring Canadians in Canada's 150th birthday year and contribute to a culture of generosity and habitual giving to the many charitable causes across Canada.
The Golden Thread Contest: a contest for those 30 or younger, seeks to gather stories from younger Canadians – their stories of faith past, present, and future – to help celebrate our country’s 150th birthday. (www.faithincanada150.ca/goldenthread)
The Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for Faith and Writing: a contest designed to help give voice to these individuals and communities and to help re-awaken Canadians to the powerful truth, goodness, and beauty that belief brings into our shared lives. (http://www.faithincanada150.ca/initiatives/mitchell-prize)