Students come together to discuss religious coexistence

RYAN VERBEY-VERUTIS

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On March 24, the Student Justice Centre (SJC) and the Faith and Life Centre hosted a Coexist Panel Discussion in Sankey Chambers. Collin Glavac, the Ecumenical Program Director for the Faith and Life Centre, invited four panellists from different faith perspectives to discuss the important issue of coexistence.

The panellists included Madhav Khurana from Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) representing Hinduism, Jaime Walks from Power to Change representing Christianity, Matt Snider representing Atheism and Humanism, and Sarah Halabi from the Brock Muslim Student’s Association (BrockU MSA) representing Islam.

Glavac asked the panellists to discuss the main principles of their faith and their traditions, what their beliefs meant to them and how they thought coexistence could be achieved in a global culture with many religious perspectives. By bringing in students with unique views, the Coexist Panel Discussion hoped to explore the differences and the similarities between these faiths in order to foster understanding and acceptance among Brock students.

“We aim to open up the dialogue on an often closed issue by allowing students to discuss their faith comfortably and ask questions freely,” said Glavac.

He also stressed the importance of accurate and adequate representation. While it may be tempting to equate the panellists with their respective faith, it is important to remember that they are only one person representing beliefs that are held by many.

When the panellists were asked to discuss the main principles of their faith, the differences in their perspectives were clear. However, this divide quickly faded when the representatives discussed their hopes for coexistence.

“Why not just be content with practicing our own religion and allow others to do the same?” asked Khurana.

“As long as we are not doing harm to each other, emotionally, mentally, or philosophically, then we should not impede upon each other.”

Halabi agreed, pointing out that not all religions are concerned with forcibly converting other people. She also stressed the importance of actively seeking ways to live in peace and harmony.

“This event is the perfect intervention to promote coexistence,” said Halabi.

“We are able to talk about our differences, which is essential. We need to understand our differences, respect them and focus on our commonalities.”

Halabi also compared religious difference with individual differences, suggesting that if individuals can get along despite their often contradictory beliefs, all religions should be able to coexist.

“It’s not just about our unique faiths and practices,” she said. “Each of us has individual differences.It’s the same concept.”

Walks expressed a similar point of view, stressing the importance of acceptance.

“I believe that we must coexist in the sense of human to human relationships,” he said.

While such agreement is certainly promising, coexistence remains a complex and difficult issue, one that people will continue to struggle with.

“In terms of the ultimate question of coexistence,” said Glavac. “There seems to be a struggle between passive and active approaches. Do I keep it to myself or do I talk about it?”

Many such questions remained at the end of the panel discussion, and while it may be naïve to expect a panel of students to solve the issue of coexistence in its entirety, engaging people from different perspectives in dialogue is definitely a step in the right direction.

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