Baha’i youth were among those participating in a recent “Faith of Millennials 150” conversation held in Ottawa.
The event brought together young people from a variety of faith backgrounds to consult on how young people from religious communities can work together to contribute to creating a rich and vibrant public life in Canada. The “Faith of Millennials 150” project is an initiative organized by the think-tank Cardus. It aims to bring together young members of faith communities who are involved in contributing to a wide range of social spaces to reflect and develop a vision for the role of faith in shaping Canada’s future. Last Thursday’s gathering in Ottawa was one of many that are being held across the country –all of which Baha’i youth have joined– in preparation for a national conference for young people of faith on the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
The project is part of the “Faith in Canada 150 project” which is dedicated to bringing Canadians of faith together in light of the country’s 150th anniversary. The project aims to recognize and celebrate the many faith communities central to the formation of Canada.
The gathering was facilitated by Canada’s former Ambassador of Religious Freedom and current Chair of the Cabinet of Canadians for the Faith in Canada 150 program, Dr. Andrew Bennett, and Ray Sawatsky, Cardus’ director of stakeholder relations. Drawing together over 25 young people between the ages of 16 and 36, the conversation centered on the question: “What is the place of faith in building our common life in Canada?” as well as how young people, in particular, can overcome the challenges they face in speaking “openly and objectively” about religion in public. Dr. Bennett opened the gathering with some remarks concerning the relationship between freedom of religion and the full engagement of religious communities in public life. “Part of the responsibility of freedom of religion is to profess our faith” said Dr. Bennett. In this regard, Dr. Bennett underlined the importance of dispelling the “myth” that religion is a private matter: “By accepting that religion is purely private we deprive our citizens of a genuine dialogue, [this makes it] very hard to build a common life together”.
Participants divided into small groups to reflect on questions pertaining to the role of faith in their individual and collective lives as well how they can address some of the challenges faced by young people of faith in a climate of materialism and irreligion. During the conversations further questions emerged such as whether it is possible to “have a common religious experience with different faith communities”. These consultations will continue to be held throughout the country over the coming months and will contribute to developing the content for the upcoming national conference to be held next summer.
The lack of conversation about faith in the public was described by Sawatsky as a place where Canadian society is “broken” and needs to be healed. As such, Faith in Canada 150 is “taking this unique moment to look at the history of faith in Canada [and] before”. Emphasizing the central message of Faith in Canada 150 Dr. Bennett asserted, “this is Canada, faith matters”.