Delegates from the Millennial Summit in Ottawa June 28-30 affirmed the positive role religious faith plays in Canada’s common life. Photo by Asad Chishti of Chairs and Tables

Millennial Summit affirms role of religious faith in Canada

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  • July 13, 2017

OTTAWA – Faith has helped shape Canada for its first 150 years and there’s a youthful next generation that wants to make sure it is just as influential for the next 150.

Young Canadians from many faith traditions met at the Millennial Summit on June 27-30 to affirm the role religion has played in Canada. They vowed to continue the work.

In an open letter to Canada on the eve of the 150th birthday of Confederation July 1, the 75 delegates of the Summit wrote that they hoped “Canada’s next generation of faithful leaders will move beyond tolerance to cultivate a more vibrant expression of pluralism, founded in the resolution to live peaceably in diversity.”

“Such genuine pluralism admits both public and private expressions of faith even when our beliefs differ from one another and disagree,” the letter said. “We affirm that we desire a genuine respect for the inherent dignity of the human person regardless of what faith or non-religious belief they profess.”

The millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, were represented at the Summit by young leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other religious traditions. The Summit was part of Cardus’ Faith in Canada 150 project

“I was struck by the generosity of spirit that was present, that each brought to the table,” said Hannah Marazzi, 24, who has been the Millennial Summit’s project lead since January and will continue working out of Cardus’ Ottawa offices.

“I was also struck by the high degree of relational presence,” said Marazzi, who is originally from Abbotsford, B.C., and a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church. “Individuals took care to share very articulately from their respective traditions and retained a sense of devotion yet also a posture of openness to the other delegates.”

Delegates attended six seminar-style sessions during the Summit, each addressing questions regarding faith and pluralism in a Canadian context and led by Cardus’ Cabinet of Canadians, a multi-faith group of religious leaders chaired by former Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett.

The themes of the sessions covered questions such as the role of faith in public life, the importance of religious freedom and the nature of true pluralism, Marazzi said.

Daniel Richardsen, 31, a former Anglican who grew up in India and Brunei before coming to Canada in 2004, called the Summit “an amazing first step towards real multi-faith dialogue.”

“I think all of us felt a sense of relief that we didn’t have to conceal that part of who we are, and not be awkward about it,” said Richardson, who is now a Catholic. “We could be ourselves, not trying to convert each other.”

He believes millennials are “wired differently” because so many grew up in unstable family circumstances and have a “deeper sense of longing for stability, for things of substance.”

“There’s less tolerance for the casualness of previous generations,” he said. Consequently you see more “radicalism” in terms of commitment and “desire for more traditional forms.”

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