Love, renewed language, and education the key to inter-faith harmony

125 participants turn out to Interfaith Dialogue in Abbotsford

Guest speakers at the Interfaith Dialogue meeting.

Guest speakers at the Interfaith Dialogue meeting.

One hundred twenty-five community members concluded recently that unrepresentative language and education result in inter-faith misunderstanding, isolation, and exclusion. It was decided that language and education must be changed to reflect Abbotsford’s common values like “love,” “equity,” and “justice.”

Participants met Jan. 31 at the Ramada Plaza for the Abbotsford 2014 Interfaith Dialogue. Included was keynote speaker Walter Paetkau; panelists Ron Dart, Theresa Neel, Kirpa Kaur, and Scott Fast; and small group discussions.

“No matter your dogma, your faith is justified when you show love, compassion, and justice. It’s about actions,” said Paetkau, inter-faith pioneer and founder of Abbotsford Community Services.

Panelists raised issues including gendered community relationships, and language and education surrounding faith, such as labelling, sensationalized media, and biased words (eg. the use of “gay” with negative connotations).

“One thousand aboriginal women are missing. If 1,000 white ladies suddenly disappeared from North Vancouver, someone would be more likely to notice,” said Neel.

“Equity is about choice. And choice means having a voice, access to resources, and being empowered,” stated Kaur in regard to women in faith communities.

Participants who are parents also raised concern about how to raise children with today’s negative influences. Discussed were factors such as being a role model of inclusion and love, exposing children to other cultures, and teaching the parents’ religion while providing choice.

Bridges of Faith, a local inter-faith planning committee, is seeking more partners in the community to work on proposed ideas of action, such as working on community service projects together, and having open houses similarly to past places of worship tours.

This dialogue was a part of a larger project – World Interfaith Harmony Week – coordinated by Abbotsford Community Services and Bridges of Faith. Contact or call 604-859-7681 for more information.