This was our 7th annual dinner with approx. 40 people in attendance. The evening began with a shared meal prepared by participating faith groups, followed by a slide presentation on our 2018 activities. Keynote speaker, Connie Waterman, Vice President Multifaith Action Society presented on the 2018 World Parliament of Religions and its role in pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change. An historical and current overview provided a context for this periodic gathering of the world’s religions and its ever widening embrace.
The 2017 Unity in Diversity Dinner took place Friday October 27th at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. This was the first time that St. Joseph’s had hosted the event. A wonderful turnout and welcome from their congregation provided the opportunity to meet and forge new friendships. The food, as always was a sharing event with a variety of dishes being served by the Sikh Temple, St. Joseph’s, Baha’i Community and bannock made by Squamish Nation elder, Donna Billy.
This year instead of having a speaker, we showed a Ted talk about an initiative in Kenya to overcome the fear of terrorism through multifaith solidarity that culminated in painting houses of worship yellow. Following the viewing, each table was asked to discuss a series of questions around fear and ways of overcoming fear of the unknown and those they knew little about.
Recurring themes in what created fear included; fear of exclusion, being misunderstood, prejudice and lack of understanding of the other’s worldview. Ways of overcoming fear and creating environments of understanding included; creating spaces for people to come together and learn about each other such as the Multifaith dinner. More collaborative events and more education can create the desire to know one another and to understand and accept each other as humans. Choosing hope over fear was seen as a commitment to the the process.
The 2018 Multifaith calendar was on sale at the event and Fr. Mark was gifted one as a thank you for offering St. Joseph’s as a host for this year’s dinner.
2016 – Theme: Homelessness
Squamish Multifaith Association held its 5th annual Unity in Diversity Dinner on October 22nd at St. John’s Anglican Church. This popular community event brings together a diverse group of people to explore topics of mutual concern and interest. The topic of ‘homelessness’ attracted a crowd of 50+ participants. Panelists Mayor Patti Hentzman, Maureen Mackell and Sherry Small provided an overview of the current situation in Squamish with thoughts on community engagement. The figures were alarming, with more than 100 adults categorized as homeless during the October count. High rents and limited low income housing options have exacerbated the situation. Helping Hands Society executive director, Maureen Markell described a population way more diverse than the mental health/addictions profile that fits the current stereotype. The society provides emergency shelter, a drop in centre and hot meals. There are several other organizations who are also providing services for this in most need, including Howe Sound Women’s Centre and Sea to Sky Community Services. Mayor Heintzman outlined some strategies that the district are working on to alleviate the situation, including working with existing partners and the development of more rental units and transition housing. Sherry Small, a long time advocate for those marginalized, got to the heart of the matter as she emphasized the gifts brought by each individual regardless of their circumstance. Turning the topic on its head or perhaps we should say heart, she saw the challenge not so much as structural as human. “Listen to understand,” she invited the participants so that in community we can help one another and work as one.
If you are interested in learning more or becoming in engaged, check out http://www.squamishhelpinghands.ca and this site for future updates.
2015 – Theme: Road to Reconciliation
Panel – Road to Reconciliation – Josh Joseph (Councillor, Squamish Nation), Ginger Gosnell Meyers (Aboriginal Planner, City of Vancouver), Susan Chapelle (Councillor, District of Squamish)
Moderator: Dr. John Guilfoyle
Explored past and present realities of our relationships with First Nations Peoples and considered some practical measures that we in Squamish can employ to promote reconciliation, healing and community building that values and recognizes the role of indigenous people in society as a whole. Dinner hosted by Squamish Nation, Sikh Community and Baha’i Community
To learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and milestones on the road to reconciliation check out the these websites:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.
National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation http://umanitoba.ca/centres/nctr/
Project of Heart www.projectofheart.ca