Stay Strong, Stay Positive

Like so many others, the board of the Victoria Multifaith Society connected online last month, holding our March meeting via Zoom. We started with a check-in to see how each of us is doing, and how our different faith communities are all coping.

It often feels like the world that existed before mid-March has been swallowed whole by the coronavirus, Covid-19. People’s health and the economy are taking incredible hits, with more lives and livelihoods lost with each passing day. And yet as each board member told stories of people rising to meet the challenge, it was impossible not to feel a little stronger, a little more optimistic.

It’s inspiring, this ability of human beings to respond to the unexpected with an extraordinary ramping up of courage and compassion. Swift responses and new heights of competency and leadership have come from every level of society. Elected representatives, public health officials and ordinary people are consulting and cooperating together, implementing needed measures, and earning the respect and trust, even the spontaneous affection, of an anxious population.

Churches, mosques, synagogues, meeting places and homes are responding and adapting, learning to organize and support each other, often lending a hand to the larger community while managing to limit physical interaction. From the local to the international level, coping skills and creativity are being tested by the moving target of Corona consequences that ripple out in all directions.

This particular meeting check-in wasn’t the story of minor tests, travels, or milestones. Our Buddhist board member, Janine, works with the Coalition to End Homelessness, serving a vulnerable population hit doubly hard in times of difficulty. John, the board’s Indigenous member, wrote an article for a national newspaper on the disproportionate impact of a pandemic on Indigenous communities already dealing with trauma and precarious health care. The Sikh and Hindu directors, Parminder and Sri, renowned for their ability to feed multitudes, are working harder than ever within the imposed limits. We’re reminded again of the special gifts that each of our nine traditions bring to the table, and the generosity of spirit that has only increased our mutual trust and affection over the years.

As that same spirit warms interfaith and intercultural relationships all over the world, melting barriers to inclusivity and mutual appreciation of beliefs and cultures, we’re mindful of the silver linings of this pandemic. Our interconnectedness has never before been more apparent. Victoria and VMS are a community of communities. Although they often operate seamlessly and quietly, the efforts of both religious and secular groups to contribute to the betterment of society is what keeps the city humming and the earth firm beneath our feet. It’s important to say to all of the many dozens of hard-working congregations, groups and organizations in the city, “Thank you. We see you.”

Our love and thanks go equally to all the individuals – the citizens and particularly the health workers – doing all they can to help, in countless, compassionate ways. There are far too many people and far too many ways to even mention. Every one of those efforts lifts our spirits, warms our hearts and renews our faith in humanity.

That faith and those skills are needed now more than ever. VMS had originally dedicated this year to encouraging dialogue focused on hope and initiatives around climate change, recognizing that our world is rushing headlong into a disaster caused by the heating of its atmosphere and oceans. In a dramatic turn, the pandemic has temporarily slowed the forces amplifying that malignant process. The hard-won learning currently caused by this pandemic may well be its most valuable silver lining. We hope that the new levels of local and international cooperation will extend forward, allowing all of us to peacefully transition to a future that’s healthy, sustainable and more unified.

World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020

L-R Rev Lyndon Sayers, Moussa Magassa, Henri Lock, Ben Altair, Janine Theobald, Asiyah Robinson, Brendan Noyes, John Borrows, Hannah Askew, David Batterham, Sheila Flood, Flossie Baker, Rev Shana Lynngood

Spirituality & the Climate Crisis was a great success, thanks to its many dedicated workers. Among them were our keynote speaker Hannah Askew of the Sierra Club and youth panelists Isha Cheema, Christopher Sanford-Beck, Ben Ingham, Asiyah Robinson and Brendan Noyes, each offering thought-provoking comments to the question “What teachings in your spiritual tradition does the world most need right now, related to the climate crisis?” This was followed by facilitated discussions at 8 tables around a delicious vegetarian meal, and an enthusiastic round of reporting back in the main room. The evening closed with thanks by our gifted MC Flossie Baker and a moving song led by Rev. Shana Lynngood. More photos here.

A video of the keynote talk (with introduction by John Borrows) and youth panel can be found at the link Sprituality & the Climate Crisis.

Spirituality & the Climate Crisis

Thursday, 6 February, 2020

“Spirituality and the Climate Crisis” is our theme in honour of World Interfaith Harmony Week 2020. It will be held on Thursday 6 February, from 5 to 8 pm, at the UVic Interfaith Chapel (located at the entrance to Finnerty Gardens.) Registration required.

The climate crisis has enormous spiritual implications. Solutions will require courage, creativity, wisdom, understanding, and unity. Sierra Club Executive Director Hannah Askew will speak of what allows her to have hope. She will be accompanied by a panel of young people of diverse spiritual traditions, to discuss what teachings from those traditions the world most needs right now, in order to come together to solve this most pressing of problems. There will also be a facilitated discussion during the suppertime meal.

The event and meal are offered by the Victoria Multifaith Society and UVic Multifaith Services, in collaboration with the Community Partnership Network (ICA) and the UVic Office of Equity and Human Rights.  

Although the event is free, registration is required due to space limitations. Please register at this Eventbrite link

AGM 2019: Sunday 17 November

The Annual General Meeting of the Victoria Multifaith Society will be held from 2 pm to 4 pm on Sunday 17 November, at the Interfaith Chapel of the University of Victoria.

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. John Borrows, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School, and VMS board member. He will be speaking on “Spirituality, Justice and Indigenous Peoples”

There will be discussion and refreshments following the talk. A review of the year’s activities and discussion of future activities will take place during the 2nd half of the meeting from 3:15 to 4 pm.

Membership in VMS is $10 for those who wish to support our activities. The AGM is open to all and free of charge.

“Spirituality, Justice and Indigenous Peoples”

Indigenous spiritualities are diverse, dynamic, and innovative. They are increasingly at the heart of Canadian debates about justice, reconciliation, and identity.  They appear in discussions about residential schools and overrepresentation in child welfare and prison systems. Indigenous spiritualities animate discussions about land claims, treaties, natural resource and environmental policies, as well as movements such as Idle No More and calls to take action related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children. This talk will discuss how Indigenous spiritualities form an important part of our lives and landscape in Canada.

John Borrows B.A., M.A., J.D., LL.M. (Toronto), Ph.D. (Osgoode Hall Law School), LL.D. (Hons., Dalhousie, Queen’s, York & Law Society of Ontario), D.H.L. (Hons., Toronto), F.R.S.C., is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School in British Columbia. He is the 2017 Killam Prize winner in Social Sciences and the 2019 Molson Prize Winner. John is Anishinaabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada.

Starfield’s Special Event 2019

JD Edwards, Bear Sam, Cara Luft, Jo Beattie, JoJo Beattie

This year’s Starfields Concert, held 9 October as a fundraiser for the Victoria Multifaith Society, was a success on many levels, not least of which was the level of enthusiasm in the audience. This was a return performance for The Small Glories, aka Cara Luft and J.D. Edwards from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who are second to none in their musical abilities. They had performed at the inaugural Starfields Festival in Victoria in 2018, and again performed their magic this past month to a rapt multi-generational crowd.

Tickets went on sale at $20 on 7 September. Tickets for The Small Glories usually run much higher; ticket costs were kept deliberately low to attract more people to the fundraiser. Artistic Director Jo Beattie generously volunteered her time and costs. Holy Cross Parish donated the venue and provided tea, coffee and juice. One hundred and thirty-three tickets were sold, costs were met, a donation was made to VMS, and a small amount was also put aside towards a future Starfields event.

Greatest thanks goes to Jo Beattie, who has been putting on successful music festivals for many years and who created the Starfields Festival after she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island in 2017. Starfields is committed to building community through music, bringing people of all faiths and no faith together in a shared sense of unity and common purpose. That purpose, working together for a better world, is what has made Starfields such a joyful collaborative effort.

VMS is also especially grateful to the artists, volunteers and all others who lent their time and expertise to this event. May it only grow bigger and stronger in the future!

One Spirit – 2019

The annual multifaith arts devotional, 21 September 2019, hosted by the Hindu Parishad and Cultural Centre and co-sponsored by VMS, was again a fantastic success: full to the brim and then some! The colour, warmth and hospitality of the Hindu community shone through the space. Spirits were high as presenters from a multitude of traditions all sang praises in many forms, languages and voices to the one God, as MC Sri Ganti noted.

Nicole Mandryk

Led by Sudhakar Ganti, the sacred sound of Om filled the room to open the evening. First Nations presenter Nicole Mandryk told a magnificent story of northern resident killer whales, with song, drum and dancers. Fiona Stuart of the Jewish community involved the whole audience with the song Hallelu.Tahirih Nasseri, a young Bahá’í, presented the song “Find Me”, based on the writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Rev. Karen Verveda, Diego Barrientos and Kathryn Lacerte of the United Church led the audience in two selections, one in the Taize tradition. People continued to pour in, sitting on the floor, or on seats that instantly showed up when needed.

Fiona Stuart

Tâm (Phil Rossner), presented The Boddisattva of Compassion, with audience assistance. VMS board member Yavhel Valasquez sang a moving song compilation called The River. Vinod Bhardwaj and Anil Kapoor, accompanied by Suresh Basrur, sang and drummed Sikh, Hindu and Muslim songs. Several participants spontaneously offered songs and prayers, one a small Jain girl who recited the names of the 24 tirthankaras without hesitation.

The delicious southeast Asian meal was prepared by several families, also a multifaith effort from preparation to clean up, with many men and women in the kitchen. Over 100 people were served, all through the generosity of volunteers who worked hard, with enthusiasm and joy, to provide this great community-building event.

A huge thank you to all who contributed to the evening in every capacity, particularly the presenters. This link to the photos tells the story in full colour!

Starfields! 9 October 2019 Fundraiser Concert for VMS

Come and bring friends to the upcoming Starfields Concert featuring The Small Glories on the evening of Wednesday 9 October! Starfields is a powerful grassroots festival reflecting diversity and inclusiveness in its music and events. It is committed to bringing people of all faiths and no faith together, building community through music.

Tickets are $20 available online at Eventbrite, as well as Munro’s, Ivy’s, and at the door. Further information at Eventbrite and on Facebook.

This year, the concert will serve as a fundraiser for the Victoria Multifaith Society. Almost all VMS events are offered free of charge and we would like to maintain this ability to provide services to the community. Special thanks go to Starfield’s artistic director, Jo Beattie, and to Holy Cross Parish, which is providing the venue for the concert and assisting with refreshments.

One Spirit: Celebrating all our faiths through the arts

This annual event at the Hindu Temple is a favourite! Join us for a multi-faith arts-based devotional from a variety of traditions, featuring many beautiful forms and styles of singing, chanting, and instrumentals, followed by a Southeast Asian meal.

It will take place 6:30 p.m., Saturday, 21 September, 2019, at 1934 Cultra Avenue, Saanichton.

The evening is a collaborative effort of the Hindu Prashad and Cultural Centre and the Victoria Multifaith Society, presented free of charge as a service to the greater community.

Please wear comfortable clothing since the majority of people will be seated on the floor; footwear is removed just inside the door.

VMS Board member for Indigenous Spirituality

The board of the Victoria Multifaith Society very happy to welcome Dr. John Borrows as its newest member, in the seat of Indigenous Spirituality. Dr. Borrows is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria and is a global leader in Indigenous law. His ideas helped shape the recommendations of both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. He has led engagement with Indigenous legal traditions in Canada and internationally, bringing to light some of the injustices, inequalities and conditions of Indigenous people. His scholarship has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Starfields Festival

It’s been a year this month since the Starfields Festival! VMS is delighted to support this multifaith musical endeavor that speaks to hope, spirituality and unity in diversity. Very much looking forward to an upcoming Festival, now in the planning stages. Please contact us if you’d like to volunteer.

An evening concert
Minutes before the opening of the 2018 Festival…
Artistic Director Jo Beattie, far right.