An Afternoon of Dialogue

An Afternoon of Dialogue

Photo Credit: Jubin Nath Maria Lawrence, Contributor

A recap of Campus Ministry’s “Black Experiences in Religious Spaces” event

Jubin Nath Maria Lawrence, Contributor

On February 8th, St. Mike’s Campus Ministry organized a panel discussion on “Black Experiences in Religious Spaces” to commemorate Black History Month. In an intercultural society and educational environment, interfaith discussions can be an interesting way to learn about the lived experiences of those around us. Moreover, intercultural dialogue within Black communities in Toronto allows for unique and significant experiences to come to the forefront. This event featured four speakers from the University of Toronto, focusing on their experiences of living out their faith within their particular traditions.  

The discussion started with Maureen Ononiwu from Nigeria, a Wycliffe College student. Maureen spoke on her experience of faith from a Protestant perspective. She shared with us the ways in which baptism and her own cultural practices played an important role in her life. She emphasized the importance of a culture that values families, faith, and education. Maureen shared her cultural baptismal garments with the group, demonstrating a beautiful pride for her Nigerian heritage.

We then listened to Gustav Ineza, a student from the Regis College and University of St. Michael College’s Faculty of Theology and a Dominican priest, who spoke about his childhood in Rwanda. He focused his sharing on the ways that intercultural living had strengthened his faith, emphasizing how being surrounded with friends of other faiths and cultures encourages him day by day to be a better person in life. In particular, his experience of Toronto as a multicultural city has helped him to dialogue fruitfully with people of other faiths. 

We also listened to Robert Ssekyanzi, a Jesuit priest and student at Regis College and University of St. Michael College’s Faculty of Theology. He shared the ways in which, for him, his experience of faith has been key to his own personal growth and understanding of identity. Being Tanzanian, for him, means that language and tradition compel him to see faith as a gift, and to accept and foster it. He stressed the important role that his culture has played in helping him to value both unity and diversity, which opened him to meeting people of other cultures and respecting them as friends. 

Finally, our panel had an interesting address from Imam Dwyer, the chaplain for the Muslim Students Association at the University of Toronto. Imam Dwyer spoke of the ways in which being a Canadian citizen of Jamaican origin adds more flavour into his life. He shared the way in which the faith devotedly given to him by his ancestors has helped him to discern well in life. According to Imam Dwyer, culture may vary in life, but religion and the identity that it bestows heals a person, and allows them to have a broader vision in life. He values his Muslim faith, which invites him towards dialogue with other religions, and compels him to serve strangers on the streets of Toronto with compassion and love.

After hearing each individual sharing, a further dialogue unfolded between the panellists and the participants. Participants came with questions surrounding African heritage, culture, values, and traditions. One of the interesting questions that each panellist had a chance to answer went as follows: What unites religious space? To a great extent, the panellists connected their views to their culture, their experience of intercultural living, and the faith given by their ancestors. It was a fruitful discussion, and the participants who attended this event were representing multiple nations and cultures, all with a dedication to values of unity and faith. 

St. Mike’s Campus Ministry is proud and honoured to help facilitate events such as this one, where new topics can be discussed, and sharing and dialogue can take place. If you are interested in interfaith dialogue, consider joining our interfaith discussion group, “Let us Share our Faith,” every Wednesday from 3:30–4:30 pm in the Campus Ministry Lounge (Brennan Hall, Room 101). There are people ready and willing to hear your views on faith, and to learn from your experience. See you there!