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Diversity and Peace Day

A couple weeks ago, I was delighted to be invited to attend a “Diversity and Peace Day” at Bob Edwards Junior High School in the Marlborough area of Calgary. The school itself has a very diverse population of students, religiously, culturally, ethnically, … . In 2002, the school set up a students’ Diversity Council, and since that time has been holding events to highlight awareness and promote understanding across many lines of difference. The theme speaker for this year’s day was Alvin Law who was born without arms due to the drug, thalidomide.

The day involved a plenary with Mr. Law followed by a wide variety of workshops. I was invited to help with the workshop on religions, representing my faith, Christianity. There was a panel, presided over by a very accomplished and poised grade 9 student; she posed questions for a 6-person panel, asking us to give our definitions of “religion”, the difference between “religious beliefs” and “spiritual beliefs”, who is our religion’s founder, why we personally chose our particular faith, how many subgroupings are there in each of our faiths, how are women treated in each faith, and so on. A video on the Charter for Compassion was shown. Finally, the students were encouraged to roam around the room where various faith displays were set up; they could ask any questions they had and engage in discussions as they wished.

One girl, not a Christian, told me that she had always been horrified by the Christian symbol of a person (Jesus) on a cross: why is that used as our symbol? it seems so cruel, such an infliction of pain — why would people do that to someone? … It was good for me to see the crucified Christ through her eyes, and see it fresh. Of course, she is right about the cruelty, … and that is the point of the symbol: we do this to others; we never should do this to others; God speaks to us about God’s love and our hardness of heart.

I had some lists of “do’s and dont’s” for interfaith dialogue; people picked them up and wondered how to get involved in the process. I told them they just needed to talk to each other: the diversity was all around them; they were gifted with a marvellous opportunity to talk, meet, build bridges.  The first rule of interfaith is to dialogue, and that requires only that we engage with someone of another faith.

There is much more to question, and worthy discussions to have. My congratulations to Mona Lufty, the teacher who leads this Diversity programme, and to the Diversity Council of Bob Edwards Jr. High. It is an excellent initiative, extremely well done by students and staff. I am grateful for being invited and being able to see the “Diversity and Peace” Day unfold — something to emulate elsewhere for sure.

Comments(5)

  1. Lynda MacKinnon says

    What a great initiative for a high school to undertake.

    Hint: If in reading this, you skipped past the link to “Charter for Compassion” – I would suggest you go back and have a look. It’s less than 3 minutes.

  2. Doug says

    Really pleased that you chose this topic to share in your post. It is a great opportunity to give others outside the chuch the chance to appreciate your insights.
    Blog On!

  3. Valerie Roney says

    I like the idea of being prompted to look at your religion through other people’s eyes. The crucifix is a weird one when you think about it. I’m not sure I ever had. I know when I was shopping for a crucifix I was looking for just the cross, the suffering Jesus didn’t appeal to me AT ALL.

    But I think we pick symbols for a reason, and if I did think about it, I think the crucifixion is a symbol of surrender. A scary word, surrender, especially when people surrender their power to someone who says they speak for God – dangerous things can happen with that interpretation!

    But surrendering to God, to that voice, that call in your heart, that’s something else entirely (though maybe scary for different reasons). It isn’t about God wanting us to suffer, that we should be surrendering to that; but that God suffers with us, and when we finally let go, when we finally surrender, trust, and let things take their course, that’s when we are transformed.

    That’s my late night spin on it anyway. Anybody else?

    • Clint Mooney says

      It is wonderful that you speak of “surrender”. I think, in the crucifixion, God is trying to persuade us to come along in love and mercy, but doing so in a way that does not overpower us, that does not take away our autonomy. God truly respects us and our personhood, I think. The crucifixion is a gentle persuasion, if you like, an appeal from below. God who remains God in power and majesty, calls us into — yes — surrender, from a position of God’s own surrendering grace.

  4. Carolyn Kaytor Thomson says

    Clint, I agree what a great program at this school. I believe that understanding some of our difference can go a long way to bringing peace in our world…..

    Loved the write up!

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