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Millennial Summit affirms role of faith in Canada

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Young Canadians from many faith traditions at the Millennial Summit June 27 - 30 affirmed the important role religion has played in Canada and will continue to play.

In an open letter to Canada on the eve of the 150th birthday of Confederation July 1, the 75 delegates of the summit affirmed the role faith has played in shaping Canada.

“It has shaped how we live our lives; how we relate to our neighbours; how we fulfil our social responsibilities; and, how we share a common life together as Canadians,” the letter said.

“We take this opportunity today to affirm our hope that Canada’s next generation of faithful leaders will move beyond tolerance to cultivate a more vibrant expression of pluralism, founded in the resolution to live peaceably in diversity.”

“Such genuine pluralism admits both public and private expressions of faith even when our beliefs differ from one another and disagree,” the letter said. “We affirm that we desire a genuine respect for the inherent dignity of the human person regardless of what faith or non-religious belief they profess.”

The millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, represented young leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other religious traditions. The summit was part of Cardus’ Faith in Canada 150 project

“I was struck by the generosity of spirit that was present, that each brought to the table,” said Hannah Marazzi, 24, who was the Millennial Summit’s project lead since January, and will continue working out of Cardus’ Ottawa offices.

“I was also struck by the high degree of relational presence,” said Marazzi who is originally from Abbotsford, B.C., and a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church. “Individuals took care to share very articulately from their respective traditions and retained a sense of devotion yet also a posture of openness to the other delegates.”

“It was quite encouraging to see,” she said. “That was one of the main aims of the summit.”

Delegates attended six seminar-style sessions during the summit, each addressing questions regarding faith and pluralism in a Canadian context and led by Cardus’ Cabinet of Canadians, a multifaith group of religious leaders chaired by former religious freedom ambassador Andrew Bennett.

The themes of the sessions covered questions such as the role of faith in public life; the importance of religious freedom; and the nature of true pluralism, Marazzi said.

“When you begin to discuss pluralism it becomes necessary to address difference,” she said. “I think that our delegates did an excellent job of demonstrating that you can be honest about how you are different, and yet be deeply convinced that the only way forward is together.”

“It’s a powerful thing to see a Christian say, ‘I am often written off from an intellectual point of view when I admit that I have faith,’ and to see an imam and a rabbi her age to step forward and stand in the gap and assist her in the challenge that they not only understand but seek to address alongside her,” she said.

“You don’t want to be in the mushy middle,” she said. “You want to be honest about the specificity of your faith tradition, but if that doesn’t impel you outward and encourage you to engage with your neighbour, it becomes difficult to take hold of the fullness of what it means to be the Canadian community.”

Daniel Richardsen, 31, a former Anglican who grew up in India and Brunei before coming to Canada in 2004, called the summit “an amazing first step towards real multifaith dialogue.”

Though Richardsen, who is now a Catholic, has had lots of experience in ecumenical exchanges with other Christians, this was his first time in interfaith dialogue.

“I think all of us felt a sense of relief that we didn’t have to conceal that part of who we are, and not be awkward about it,” he said. “We could be ourselves, not trying to convert each other.”

“I think we had a common agreement that faith is essential to having a common life together,” he said. “I was surprised at how genuine it was. I anticipated some level of forced, clichéd kind of encounter. I felt it was genuine and I’m very happy it happened that way.”

Richardsen was struck by something Andrew Bennett said while leading one of the sessions about the common solidarity Protestants and Catholics have with someone wearing a hijab or a turban “because they remind the public square about the public nature of our commitment.”

Richardsen also noted that while many of his contemporaries have drifted away from religion, those who remain in their respective faiths are much more committed.


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