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Celebrate diversity at Concordia’s Discover Multi-Faith Fair

NOVEMBER 6: ‘We want people to know it’s okay to ask questions’
October 23, 2019
By Meagan Boisse

Ashely Crouch: "Dispelling myths and getting people to see the human beyond the label is a major goal for everyone involved in this fair." "Dispelling myths and getting people to see the human beyond the label is a major goal for everyone involved."

For the third year in a row, Concordia’s Discover Multi-Faith Fair invites you to celebrate religious diversity on campus.

The rich program of events includes quizzes, games, conversation areas and free food. It’s taking place on Wednesday, November 6, in the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building).

The Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre (MFSC) offers Concordians (whether religious, spiritual or secular) a safe space to practice their faith and celebrate the human spirit. Alongside several student groups, the centre is organizing the fair to help engage the university community on an often sensitive subject.

"With everything going on in the world, and even in Montreal, we felt it was important to get people talking about faith. We want people to know it's okay to ask questions," says Ashely Crouch, an interfaith facilitator at the MFSC. Crouch says talking about religious diversity is often still considered taboo in Quebec.

“While many of us are quick to engage in conversations about racial, gender and linguistic diversity, we often leave out religion. A key component to eliminating negative attitudes toward any community is education and opportunities to personally connect with others. That's what this fair is about."


A unique opportunity to ask questions

Among other things, students can look forward to a conversation café. Volunteers from different spiritual paths will be on hand to answer questions and lead informal conversations on religion and spirituality.

If you aren't sure where to start, prompts will be scattered on tables throughout the space. Crouch says the cafe represents an excellent opportunity to talk to people with whom you might otherwise never interact.

"Last year, one student remarked how grateful they were to finally get a chance to talk with a Sikh person and ask questions they'd always been too shy and embarrassed to bring up. Others were surprised to learn there are female rabbis and LGBTQ Christian ministers," she says.

"Dispelling myths and getting people to see the human beyond the label is a major goal for everyone involved in this fair."

Turban tying and bonding over shared values

Another highlight of the event is the Symbols Celebration Station, where student volunteers showcase and explain different symbols of their faith, such as kippahs, hijabs, necklaces, Hindu statues and holy books. Simarjit Singh Ronak, a graduate student in cybersecurity, helped organize the station and will volunteer at it throughout the day.

"I want to introduce people to turban tying to help them learn more about Sikhism," he says.

Ronak found the MFSC during his first term at Concordia while seeking out opportunities to meet new people.

"Luckily, I came across an opportunity to volunteer for an event called Loyola Chill, and the rest is history," he says. The MFSC has provided an open and diverse network that's helped him learn about different cultures.

"I think it's so important to understand other people and their way of life. Even if we think we're all so different, I've found we're similar in more ways than you can imagine," Ronak says. "That is what we celebrate at the MFSC. We create a platform for people to understand these similarities."

Crouch agrees. "It's often through conversation that we find we have more in common than not. Even students from our various religious student groups have developed close relationships by bonding over shared values,” she says.

“We live in an incredibly diverse city, so building bridges and deepening our connections with the people we call neighbours will continue to be important for Montreal to flourish."

Discover Multi-Faith Fair will take place on Wednesday, November 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Abe and Harriet Gold Atrium of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (1515 Ste-Catherine Street W.).

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