Wisdom Wednesdays creating important dialogue and social connection
Edgar French, Spiritual Care coordinator at the University of Manitoba, muses about how dialogue can move us forward in a polarized world and introduces Wisdom Wednesdays, a speakers’ series covering pertinent issues facing the world today.
Spiritual Care began interfaith gatherings and dialogues out of the conviction that in a pluralistic and interdependent world, it is not enough to simply learn about each other’s worldviews and religions from a comfortable distance or behind a book. In an effort to mitigate the biases, fears, and prejudices that thrive in ignorance and misrepresentation, engagement with one another in open, honest and meaningful ways is essential. These are not lofty ideals, or pursuits of secondary importance reserved for open-minded folks. A conflicted and highly polarized world, abounding in violence, points to the dire need for such exchanges. They are integral to our survival. As Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard University, so succinctly puts it, “Dialogue or die!”
Equally important is the function that dialoguing serves, on a more personal note, in human development. When it comes to meaning, making and living an authentic life, nothing says growth like encountering the “other.” Activist and theologian Vinoth Ramachandra states, “We don’t know what we believe and why, let alone how much our lives match up what we claim to believe, until we engage in serious dialogue with others, especially those who are profoundly different to us. In other words, the other is indispensable towards our own self-discovery.”
Two years ago, Spiritual Care began hosting dinners and evening gatherings that would bring students together. Through the sharing of a meal and discussions, over a wide range of topics, these gatherings aimed to develop insights and understandings of diverse represented world-views and faiths, through relationship building. The pandemic has definitely put a wrench in such efforts. However, all is not lost!
The newly launched Interfaith Speakers’ Series Wisdom Wednesdays is a means by which the department seeks to carry on this important conversation and engagement. Over the next eight weeks, community faith leaders and tradition representatives will speak to pertinent issues facing the world today through their spiritual lens, their wisdom. The aim is to provide students and all UM community members with the opportunity to glean from such insights, dispel misconceptions and engage in conversations at a time when social connection is greatly limited by distanced learning.
To register for Wisdom Wednesdays or assist with future gatherings, contact Spiritual Care today at spiritualcare [at] umanitoba [dot] ca
For previous recordings of sessions, see Spiritual Care’s postings.