In the midst of the onslaught of Black Friday advertisements, Giving Tuesday allows us a moment to pause and reflect on something different. An email unrelated to Giving Tuesday crossed my desk the other day and the two questions it contained struck me as the perfect way to frame these reflections.  

What kind of a world do you want to live in?

What investment, if any, do you need to make to play a role in creating that kind of world?

These questions got me thinking about the world we live in – and the one we want. 

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The World We Live In

Canada is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Even compared to the diverse country to our south, we have twice as many Buddhists, 2.5 times as many Hindus, four times as many Muslims and perhaps a dozen times as many Sikhs. Comparisons with the UK share the same story – even among diverse liberal democracies, Canada is especially religious diverse. And yet we live in a time of rising hate crimes, driven partly by a surge in religiously motivated incidences

And yet, despite us all having friends, neighbours or colleagues who follow different faiths, with few exceptions, our students do not receive education about the world’s religions in school. 

Our teachers, police officers, health care workers often have to seek out their own religious literacy training independent of their workplace. 

Even within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion world, training only occasionally deals with religion as a discrete entity. 

And it shows. 

A recent study found 39% of Canada’s religious minorities are uncomfortable speaking up at work. It’s not unrealistic to think this statistic reflects a larger cultural issue and might be similar for students, patients, and people dealing with the legal system. 

The World We Want

For years, Encounter has worked with individuals, smaller community groups, and workplaces to facilitate religious literacy and open important conversations. And based on the feedback we know our programs work. We hear beautiful stories about the ways Encounter’s programs affect the participants:

  • friendships created or rekindled because of a new understanding of one another; 
  • a colleague who finally feels seen and comfortable revealing more of themselves; 
  • a teacher who changes the conversations in her class content to be more inclusive;
  • a police officer who has new tools to build community connections;
  • a health care worker whose new knowledge will help them better care for patients and their families at very difficult times. 

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These stories are gratifying. But we have big dreams to create more opportunities for community connection, more resources to help educate one another, more positive experiences which can cause ripples in our classrooms, hospitals and police services. In short, more understanding of one another. 

Religious, spiritual, and secular identities, at their core, can expresses so much of what is crucial for us – what we believe in, how we move through the world, the rituals and traditions that ground us, and the community we love and that loves us. Imagine if we all knew a bit more about these important beliefs and could replace fear and misconceptions with genuine curiosity and respect. 

What can you do to help us open these important conversations?

  • Donate to Encounter to help us build new programs and resources and to expand our reach.  
  • Follow us on social media and share content that you think is valuable. 
  • Pass on our resources to folks in your circle. 
  • Encourage your workplace and communities to consider religious literacy and inclusion in their DEI initiatives.  
  • Start a conversation with someone about the importance of religious literacy and inclusion. 
  • Share your experiences with Encounter’s programs with us and with your friends and colleagues who might value this sort of positive experience. 
  • Reach out to us and share what other programs, tools and experiences related to religious literacy you would consider valuable.   

Encounter has become what it is today because folks like you joined our programs, and then encouraged others to do the same. Won’t you help us continue to work towards a world where there is real inclusion and belonging? 

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