Understanding, action and respect. These are the key ingredients for religious pluralism. This means moving beyond acknowledging we are all different — and working to grow an inclusive campus community that respects all viewpoints.
The keynote speaker for this year's Pluralism and Religious Diversity Week is Dr. Ingrid Mattson, PhD, the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at Western University. Her work explores the history of Islamic thought, culture and practices, often focusing on the roles and representation of women.
Storytelling in Islamic traditions
On March 15, Mattson will deliver her keynote presentation titled "Have You Ever Heard a More Eloquent Woman? Stories of Muslim Matriarchs from the Islamic Tradition." She will trace the narrative of Hajar from biblical to Islamic texts, and discuss how the story changes based on who does the telling.
"In the biblical narrative, Hajar is forced to accept a marginal role in the story of a people blessed by God. She is alternately portrayed as 'uppity' and then disempowered and weak," she says.
"In the ancient Arabian and Islamic narrative, Hajar is a woman who believes that God has given her a special purpose, is the active founder of a sacred city and the matriarch of a people."
Mattson believes storytelling allows us to be compassionate and humble about how much (or little) we know about others.
"As a religious educator and someone who supervises spiritual formation, much of revelation is conveyed through storytelling. It has always played a large role in spiritual formation," she says. "Listening to stories about spiritual exemplars, or ordinary people who struggled and overcame obstacles or personal narratives, is a journey in empathy, which helps us feel what other people are feeling — as well as see things from their point of view."
You can attend the keynote on March 15 at 4:30 p.m. in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Forum.
Pluralism and Religious Diversity Week – March 11 - 15
Pluralism and Religious Diversity Week is an annual week-long event presented by the Faith and Spirituality Centre, Faculty of Arts and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure.
The week has a full schedule of speakers, workshops, dialogues and activities for students, faculty and staff to have an immersive pluralistic experience. Here are just a few events not to miss:
- Take part in Barnga, a game where participants experience the shock of realizing that, despite many similarities, people of differing cultures often perceive things differently.
- Join poet, musician and activist Pam Rocker or author and doctoral candidate Noam Sienna as they lead discussions on faith and queer identities from different perspectives.
- Learn a new way to cook in a cultural cooking class, how to plan an inclusive event, or about intercultural conflict styles.
What does a pluralistic campus look like?
Seth Erais, pluralistic engagement co-ordinator at the Faith and Spirituality Centre, says Pluralism and Religious Diversity Week exists to celebrate the religious or cultural identities of students at the University of Calgary. "It is an opportunity to build greater awareness and understanding for religious and cultural difference on campus and in our daily lives," says Erais. "Pluralism means more than recognition of differences; it involves building mutual respect for one another and a commitment to learn more about each other."
Mattson believes most would find ways to coexist if the ideological barriers to recognizing the humanity and value of others were absent.
"Across the world and across Canada, people of diverse faiths and worldviews live among each other and share common challenges and opportunities," she says. "It is necessary for our own moral protection and integrity, as well as to prevent violence and discord in society, that we learn about each other from each other and model working together for the common good."