Convivium contributor Susan Korah is at the week-long Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto where an expected 10,000 attendees are getting a message about finding common ground through diverse faiths.
Convivium Weekly: Our wrap-up of notable news, ideas, and images— sent by email. Get Convivium Weekly delivered to your inbox.
The positive energy in the Exhibition Hall of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was palpable as representatives of 220 of the world’s faith traditions came together in all their diversity for the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions. The hall reverberated with the rhythm of drumbeats, and the aisle between rows of seats swirled with vibrant colours as a parade of drummers and dancers of the host First Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Mississaugas of the Credit Valley gave the assembled guests a rousing welcome to Toronto, their traditional home territory, now the most highly populated city in Canada, and a microcosm of the entire world’s cultures and races.
The goal of the gathering, which runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, is to find common ground within this diversity and to discover practical ways of harnessing their combined voices to combat the polarization and divisiveness that too often mark the world of geopolitics today, and to create a more inclusive, just and sustainable world.
Nearly 10,000 people from Canada and around the world are expected to converge on Toronto for this purpose, intrigued by the city’s reputation as a haven of multi-faith harmony.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, herself an immigrant from Northern Ireland, emphasized in her special opening address the importance of faith to the development of Canada as a nation.
“The faith perspective was critical to the development of this country,” she said. “It’s from that perspective that we learned early lessons in social justice.”
Dowdeswell said that while we may practice different faiths, we can all agree on a vision of a more just and caring world.
“We all want a world that works for everyone,” she said. “We want to see an inclusive world where economic justice prevails, and the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals are met.”
Stressing the importance of working together she said, “When people of faith cooperate, a positive and powerful force is in effect, because we move from rhetoric to action.”
“Throughout history the greatest challenges were overcome, not in isolation but by collaboration and cooperation,” she said.
Dowdeswell ended by quoting Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things to make the world a better place.”
In his welcome address Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, who came to Canada as a 16-year old refugee from Somalia, took up the theme of the importance of the faith perspective in the formulation of public policy.
“In every struggle for social and economic justice, you (faith leaders) have played a central role” he said. “You have spoken up on matters of freedom of religion. You have fed into public policy and have advised policy makers.”
Hussen invited people of faith to continue doing so: “You make a better global community when you do this.”
Dr. Karen Hamilton, ex-officio General Secretary to the Canadian Council of Churches, reinforced the call to action by people of faith and conviction, arguing that that their combined voices would form a potent force to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
“In the year 2020 we will mark the 20th anniversary of the UN and we can all work together to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (adopted by the UN to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all) by then,” she said.
Convivium means living together. We welcome your voice to the conversation. Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Send it to them now. Do you have a response to something we've published? Let us know!