The Healing the Planet Open Letter from VMS has now been released as a short video. Describing the challenges and opportunities as we approach the end of this eventful year, the video provides a glimpse of where we are and the where we need to go, combining spirituality, pragmatism, and a visionary view of the future.
The theme will be featured at our upcoming AGM, 24 February 2021, with keynote speaker Dr Mary-Wynne Ashford presenting The Global 911 Call: Who Will Answer? on reshaping our international institutions to reflect our common spiritual values.
The World Partnership Walk is virtual this year, from 27 October to 6 December. Every dollar raised will be quadrupled through matching funds, going to the poorest of the poor around the world. You canregister to contributeas an individual or team. Each week a video checkpoint from a different country will be featured, so you can track your progress. The World Partnership Walk is organized by the Aga Khan Foundation. Start a team or register as an individual today!
VMS encourages all to donate to the BC Thanksgiving Food (Fund) Drive to help local food banks meet the increased demand in these difficult times. Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the drive is requesting online donations of funds rather than bags of food. This has the added benefit of providing $3 worth of food for every $1 donated.
Some may have received (or help deliver) the colourful door hangers publicizing the food drive. Please note that the website for donations is case sensitive if entered manually, or you can simply click on the link here: bit.ly/BCFoodDriveChoose the food bank you’d like to receive your donation, either one time or recurring, and enter “BCTFD” in the message section of your donation. An enormous THANK YOU to all who have made this possible, and to the food banks for their valuable work in our community.
Communities are invited to ring bells or “make a righteous noise” at the time of dropping of the bombs.
Individuals are invited to set a reminder and take a moment to reflect…
“Set a chime for these times…”
On Thursday, August 6th and Sunday, August 9thchurch bells, hand bells and other appropriate devices are to be rung across Vancouver Island at the time of the bombs: 8:15 a.m. on August 6th and 11:50 a.m. on August 9th.
All are invited to take part in the online educational event:
On Thursday, August 6thth at noon, a live Zoom presentation on the current nuclear weapons threat, nuclear weapons and religious faith, and the public health and the environmental consequences of nuclear weapons.
The distinguished presenters for this event are two physicians and a brilliant young student activist:
Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford is past President of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. She has twice been awarded the Governor General of Canada Award and has participated in humanitarian missions to North Korea.
Magritte Gordaneer from Victoria is a student at McGill University. She founded McGill Students for Peace and Disarmament, the university’s only student peace group. Magritte travelled to Hiroshima to participate in the Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security presented by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Jonathan Down is President of Physicians for Global Survival. He is a pediatrician at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health in Victoria and an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria.
Moderator for the program is Bill Geimer, US army veteran and Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington and Lee University.
It’s again time for bold ideas and courageous initiatives.
This year may be remembered as the moment when humanity drew together as the pandemic and then the Black Lives Matter movement swept across the globe, both demanding profound change and growth. Together with the brewing storm of the climate crisis these have led to a growing realization that we can’t go back to business as usual; we need to seek effective solutions.
As the board of a multifaith society from nine spiritual traditions and several cultures, it seems evident that these changes need to be inclusive and unifying. Healing and recovery in Canada and elsewhere can’t be short-sighted or fragmented; it has to take place within a coherent whole. Systemic problems require systemic solutions. For our greatest challenges, those systems are now global.
It’s significant that 26 June 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter, created to establish peace and security in the world, goals more important now than ever. There are now multiple existential threats facing us, some of which didn’t exist in mid-20th Century. Courageous changes such as those that impelled us forward then are again needed, reforming and updating international institutions to allow them to achieve their original promise. To that end, we would like to offer these thoughts.
Interconnection and interdependence, the defining characteristics of our times, have created enormous pressures for effective global governance. The level of organization needed in such fields as health, collective security, environmental stewardship and basic human rights can’t be achieved without redesigning international institutions to be “fit for purpose”.
The UN Charter, a revolutionary document which begins “We the Peoples…”, must be given the capacity to carry out the will and safeguard the interests of the world’s peoples. Big power politics, partisanship and narrow interests need to give way to a higher loyalty to humanity itself.
Listening to those with knowledge and experience is the first step in moving towards a healthy planet with a just and effective system of global governance. There are already many informed proposals designed to increase the democratic character of our global institutions, offering protection against disproportionate power and bringing the rule of law to the international sphere. Key proposals and other useful tools are on the Resources page of our website.
It’s time to put our house in order so that the world begins to respond to the values and aspirations of the majority of its inhabitants. Our efforts to heal the planet will succeed to the extent that they’re aligned with the principles that are the common ground of our spiritual traditions, such as justice, the worth and dignity of every person, and respect and compassion for all life. Those core values are based on a recognition of our essential oneness: what affects the least fortunate of us affects us all.
As members of a planetary civilization that must learn to nurture all its children, we have work to do. This includes educating ourselves and joining with others for the impact needed to create enduring, beneficial change. The question, “How can we help?”, is one we all need to ask.
“The enormous difficulties of this undertaking and the challenging times ahead should be acknowledged, but every global citizen needs to be inspired by positive visions of the better future that is possible.” 
With deep respect for all who are working to bring about that future,
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.