On December 3rd, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a dialogue with a diverse group of religious leaders from across Canada to talk about the contribution of faith communities in the context of the pandemic.
“I have been proud of our fellow Canadians to make it through this pandemic, but we have seen countless examples of stepping up, helping out, and contributing to their communities,” said the Prime Minister.
He continued: “The measures each of you have put in place to keep your communities safe have been very important. You have also been very strong in continuing a message that is not unfamiliar to you – the encouraging of people who are tired and frustrated by what life is throwing at them to stay the course, think of the long term, and doing good towards others. To make sacrifices and hang in there and keep doing the right thing.”
The meeting was hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches, the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, and the Canadian Multifaith Federation. Over 400 people joined the conversation on a virtual meeting platform, including about 20 local and national Baha’i representatives. The participants were addressed by Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, and Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Bardish Chagger. The speakers included representatives from a range of religious communities, including: the Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Baha’i communities.
“COVID has taught us how to set our priorities and values,” reflected Imam Hamed Slimi. “It has humbled us and turned us to faith for consolation and support. This is the essential nature of religious service.”
Cardinal Gérald Lacroix added, “Faith allows us to live daily in love and service. Love sustains us and allows us to go through the storm filled with hope, and this allows us to be believers and citizens.”
Other speakers emphasized the ways in which religious communities are undertaking practical acts of service to care for those around them – especially the elderly and the vulnerable.
The “closing blessing” for the event was given by Deloria Bighorn, Chairperson of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada.
“Beyond all our vast diversity, the human family is one, and that understanding must be at the heart of all our discourse and all our actions,” she said. “Religion calls us to come together as a united human family in the face of an unprecedented, dire crisis. It is precisely in the face of such great challenges as we have with the pandemic that the power of faith shines. It is a force capable of healing, of generating self-discipline and restoring commitment to noble behaviour.”
Ms. Bighorn reflected that “our ability to move as one” is “our best response to this pandemic”. In this connection, she shared the following passage from the Baha’i scriptures: “Do not be satisfied until each one with whom you are concerned is to you as a member of your family. Regard each one either as a father, or as a brother, or as a sister or as a mother or as a child. If you can attain to this your difficulties will vanish, you will know what to do.”
In his final comments, the Prime Minister reflected on the value of diversity in Canadian life and underscored the importance of common values that “inform how we support the most vulnerable to deliver a better present and future for everyone we share this earth with.”