Youth embrace interfaith dialogue
Jewish, Muslim, and Christian youth experience an Abrahamic Exchange
By Paul McKenna
Young people are the future. And the good news is that youth around the world are getting involved in interfaith dialogue. An Internet search using the keywords "youth" and "interfaith dialogue" leads to thousands of websites featuring youth taking part in interfaith dialogue.
Here in Toronto last April, Cardinal Newman Catholic High School hosted an historic gathering of young people from the three Abrahamic faiths Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Called the "Abrahamic Exchange," the event attracted 30 high school students, 10 from each of the three faiths.
Participants at the Abrahamic Exchange hosted by Cardinal Newman Catholic High School, Toronto. 2006.
The program opened with presentations by an imam (Mullana Habeeb), a rabbi (Yossi Sapeirman) and a priest (Fr. Michael McGourty). Each outlined the essential teachings of his faith tradition and showed how these teachings promote mutual understanding and respect.
The students then divided into groups to dialogue about the moral values in their traditions and later shared their reflections with the larger group.
The Scarboro Missions Interfaith Desk conducted the afternoon session, inviting students to reflect on 35 expressions of the Golden Rule as found in both ancient and modern religious sources. The ensuing discussion clearly confirmed two claims that have been made by many: first, that the Golden Rule is the most universal moral principle in history; and second, that the Golden Rule is an important place of agreement among the world's religions.
The Canadian Centre for Diversity was involved in organizing the interfaith day at Cardinal Newman. The Centre, established by the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, is mandated to provide educational programs and initiatives that teach people to speak out against all forms of discrimination. The Centre sponsors a Canada-wide program that enables young people to visit houses of worship of various faiths. Each year, ten thousand young people take advantage of this program.
Says Judy Csillag, project manager of the Centre: "Some people would have us think that our world is spinning out of control, pursuing hatred and violence, with no road ahead for harmony and understanding. Here in Canada we can prove to the world that there are alternatives, that people can live, learn and enjoy their lives amidst religious and cultural diversity. The participants in the Abrahamic Exchange day discussed their similarities and differences, and the bonds they formed have become a stepping stone for deeper understanding."
The inspiration for this historic interfaith day came from Ryan Nutter (inset), a Grade 12 student at Cardinal Newman. The Abrahamic Exchange was the result of two years of dreaming and planning on his part. Ryan had this to say: "This interfaith day made me realize that it's easy to preach peace, compassion and understanding; but when you put your words into action as we did at the Abrahamic Exchange day, you realize our great capacity as humans for building a global society based on respect, tolerance and cooperation."