Over the next year, young adults at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Windsor, Ont. will get to know their contemporaries from other faith groups through a project called “One Voice.”
This project is one of 15 across Canada to receive a share of $250,000 in funding from the Inspirit Foundation, a charity dedicated to building a more inclusive and pluralistic society in Canada.
The brainchild of Remy Boulbol, executive director of the Rose City Islamic Centre in Windsor, the One Voice project received $12,000 from the Inspirit Foundation. It will bring together a group of 15 local people of different faiths, aged 18 to 25, and allow them to “get to know each other as human beings-as my neighbor, my friend, my colleague,” says Boulbol. So far, the project’s constituents include the Anglican Church, the Jewish Community Centre, and the Sikh, Muslim and aboriginal communities.
Youth will learn about the spirituality and beliefs of other faith groups and then carry that information back to their own faith communities. Participants in One Voice will also work together to plan and run two city-wide events, said Boulbol.
When Boulbol became aware of the Inspirit Foundation and its funding mandate, she invited her friend Archdeacon Kim Van Allen and the youth of All Saints’ to support the application and be part of the project.
Boulbol and Van Allen became friends several years ago after meeting at a women’s interfaith group at the University of Windsor. When Van Allen was inducted as archdeacon at All Saints, Boulbol and her young daughters, 3 and 5 at the time, were part of the procession.
“It was lovely to have a community partner that was Muslim in my ‘parade,’ ” Van Allen recalls. “Oh, they’re giving her a new dress, just like Cinderella,” said Boulbol’s younger daughter. It was the girls’ first time in a church and they’ve never forgotten it, says Boulbol.
When Van Allen and her husband offered an educational program about world religions for the youth at All Saints,’ they invited Boulbol to speak about Islam. Van Allen is excited about the One Voice project. “It’s bringing us together now,” she says. “If we just sit in our Sunday school rooms and talk about these things, it isn’t going to be lasting.”
She adds that “Windsor is a perfect place for this [kind of project] to happen” because it is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse cities in the country, with many first and second generation Canadians.
“In our community, while there is a great deal of diversity, there is also a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation,” Boulbol says. She was particularly interested in the Inspirit program because of its focus on young people as co-creators of a common future and common goals fit with her belief in “looking at faith as a means of conflict resolution instead of an issue for conflict.” Both women hope the project will help foster leadership skills in the young participants as well.
Andrew Stephen-Rennie, a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada and columnist for the Anglican Journal, says such interfaith dialogue can have many positive effects. “From the perspective of a youth minister and someone who works with young people, my sense is that as young people are being formed in the Christian faith, it is actually really important for them to be stimulated, maybe even provoked, to ask questions about their own faith and why they believe what they believe”
For information about the Inspirit bridge building grants and about the next call for applications, go to [email protected] and/or facebook.com/InspiritFoundation.