From May 18-21, some Baha’i youth joined a diverse cohort of youth at a training retreat aimed to help develop the capacity to facilitate meaningful conversations about reconciliation. The training was organized by the 4Rs Youth Movement - a national youth-led collaborative that seeks to contribute to the process of reconciliation in Canada by engaging Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in conversation about reconciliation. Their name, 4R’s, denotes the organization’s commitment to, as stated on their website, “promote respect, reciprocity, reconciliation and relevance”. The weekend, bringing together a group of 40 young people, aged 18-30, from across Canada, marked an initial step towards forming a vibrant national learning community focused on fostering meaningful conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth throughout the country.
The training began with reflections on a cross-cultural dialogue framework introduced by 4R’s, and on its application in the youth’s respective communities. Studying the framework encouraged facilitators to see reconciliation as an organic process calling for the patient and steady involvement of many people, all of whom join the conversation from different starting points. Participants reflected on where they saw themselves, their communities, and Canada as a whole in relation to this framework. In addition, participants reflected on the following themes and questions which they identified as related to reconciliation: “the ongoing relationship between truth and reconciliation”, “the process of de-colonization”, “healing within and between communities”, and “how to encourage greater participation of youth”. The training was characterized by a strong sense of fellowship, openness, and unity of purpose – one participant remarked, “I don’t think that I have attended a gathering before where I [felt] comfortable sitting at any table and joining any group no matter who they are.”
The training helped facilitators, through varied experiential exercises and dialogue, prepare to navigate the deeply felt and often complex emotions associated with conversations about Canada’s history and the process of reconciliation. On the last day, a Blanket Exercise - in which participants adopt and trace various roles in our history, was held. After several days of forming bonds of friendship, this exercise had a particularly a potent effect on the youth facilitators, enabling them, in the context of a sharing circle, to express both their feelings and reflections on a troubling past as well as their thoughts and hopes for current efforts towards reconciliation.
In the months to come, this newly formed national learning community, comprised of ten teams of facilitators representing a diverse range of backgrounds from 11 different communities, will host conversations in a variety of settings and localities across Canada during this year. These conversations may range from large, formal meetings to smaller informal gatherings involving a few friends - all will seek to advance the nascent process of reconciliation now underway in Canada.