Building a movement of interfaith action at the University of Toronto.
Upon arriving for our fellowship placement at the University of Toronto, Anna and I set a goal to develop a movement of student leaders who would engage in interfaith dialogue and action. We hoped to inspire students to take ownership and leadership of this movement and continue building it into future years.
The University of Toronto is a large campus with over 70 active student faith groups. The Multi-Faith Centre at the university does an excellent job at providing opportunities for interfaith interaction, community service, learning and dialogue. It was clear that there is a substantial population of students living lives of faith, students with a desire to engage in community development and service and a thirst for learning. Our hope with Faiths Act was to create a group intentionally made up of students from a variety of faith backgrounds, who would work together regularly to fulfil the mandate of Faiths Act; advancing the Millennium Development Goals with a focus on eradicating malaria through awareness raising and fundraising using inspiration to engage in social action from various religions and traditions. The key to success for the Faiths Act Student Committee was for the initiatives of the committee to be led by the creativity and commitment of the participating students.
Our group began small but throughout the year as more and more events and programs took place, grew in numbers and in enthusiasm. Anna and I promoted Faiths Act to as many faith groups on campus as possible, we promoted at clubs day and campus fairs, and slowly but surely attracted the attention of students interested in the idea of interfaith or global health…or both! As we started to plan events more students became interested in our work and joined in on the action. We hosted a variety of events that balanced our different focuses – some were entirely interfaith discussions, some were entirely fundraising for malaria research while others tried to combine everything. By doing so we provided ample opportunity for students to engage and build greater understanding of different religious groups and we also demonstrated to the wider community that faith is truly a force for good.
As the school year came to a close, we had a crew of 7 strong leaders who shared their ideas, expertise, creativity and energy to make our events successful. The final event, “Speed Faithing” was initiated, advertised and planned entirely by the student members of the committee. This proved to me and Anna that our goal of creating a sustainable movement on campus, capable of exponential growth and potential had been achieved. Two invaluable members of this year’s Faiths Act Committee have taken on responsibility to lead the committee as Co-chairs for the upcoming school year. We are so excited to be leaving this committee in the ever capable hands of Sonya and Catherine, and cannot wait to see what they and their team can accomplish.