Theologian Hans Kung once said that there will be no peace among nations until there is peace among the world’s religions and there will be no peace without dialogue. The three Abrahamic faith groups in Ottawa – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – have taken that advice to heart.
On November 10, 2013 the three groups will co-host a one-day colloquium at Carleton University in Ottawa. The theme to be addressed is: How can one be a person of faith in the 21st century in Canada? (By way of transparency: I am involved in the organization of this event).
“We want to fill the hall,” says David Lee, who broached the idea of such an event. Mr. Lee is chair of the 50th anniversary committee of the Ottawa School of Theology and Spirituality (OSTS). “We want to draw upon the experience and wisdom of the three faith traditions to address key issues going forward, regarding future possibilities and challenges for persons of faith in Canada.”
Mr. Lee says that OSTS approached the Jewish and Muslim communities about the idea and the response was encouraging. “People there were enthusiastic about holding an inter-religious event of this kind. There is a great deal of mutual respect among us.”
OSTS was founded as part of an initiative by the United Church in the 1960s known as the lay school movement. The schools were voluntary organizations run entirely by and for lay Christians, and the aim was to provide theological and spiritual education. In the fall of 2013, OSTS began its 50th year of offering classes in Ottawa. It is now an ecumenical group and its sponsoring bodies are the Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Churches of Ottawa.
Although OSTS has Christian roots, it is open to people of any faith tradition and to seekers who have no specific faith affiliation. Mr. Lee says, “Some of our most popular courses have been those taught by Rabbi Reuven Bulka, and others that have dealt with the history and tenets of Islam. OSTS is pleased to play a modest role in strengthening interfaith understanding and cooperation.”
People of faith
Mr. Lee adds that it is not easy to be a person of religious faith in contemporary Canada and it is that question that the colloquium wants to pursue. “We have three excellent guest speakers will do more than simply describe their respective religions. They will talk about how to actually be a person of faith in contemporary Canada. Then we will have a final panel session with the three speakers and participants in order to pull things together. ”
The three speakers are:
- Mary Jo Leddy, PhD, CM, founder of Romero House Community for Refugees, Toronto, Adjunct Professor, Regis College, and Senior Fellow, Massey College, both at the University of Toronto.
- Ingrid Mattson, PhD, the London and Windsor Community Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Mattson previously taught Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary, and served as the first woman president of the North America Islamic Society.
- David Novak, PhD, the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of Religion and of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.
Mr. Lee says that the event is supported by the OSTS and each of its four sponsoring churches, as well as by the Ottawa communities of the Jewish and Islamic faith traditions. Carleton University and other Ottawa educational institutions are also involved.
The colloquium occurs on Sunday, November 10 between 2:30 and 8:00 p.m. in the Kailash Mital Theatre, Southam Hall at Carleton University. Light refreshments will be served. Ticket registration and more detailed information are available online at http://osts50.org/ .
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Crosstalk, a publication of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.