By: Maryam Mirza
Students and faculty gathered in the E-building for the opening of Algonquin College’s first ever multi-faith Spiritual Community Centre on Nov. 1.
This Spiritual Community Centre is the first of its kind in that it is an official place of worship for any and every religion on campus. On a regular day you could walk in to the prayer room and observe a Muslim and a Christian student praying side by side.
The opening ceremony was filled with aromas of food and treats from various cultures. Students, faculty and administration from all ethnicities and religions were packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, in one room, mingling, eating and blessing the start of a new vision.
“The idea [of the Spiritual Community Centre] actually came from students who approached the Students Association and said that we want a spiritual centre where we can all come together,” said Yuriy Derkach, the campus minister.
The idea was planted before the new Student Commons building was built. Once the construction was underway, the request of the students was recalled and brought to reality.
Derkach always encourages students to not be shy or reserved.
He invites students to come in on their own time, whenever they like and feel comfortable practicing their religion in the same space as other students.
“I think it’s beautiful to see you can have different chanting going on at the same time. I could be reading the bible and in the background I could hear verses from the Quran,” he said.
The open house was from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Spiritual Community Centre which is located in the Student Commons on the second floor, room E211.
The opening ceremony began at 2 p.m. and lasted for about an hour. It began with Derkach giving a brief speech on the purpose and goal of the centre. The ceremony continued with short speeches from guest speakers of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith.
Among the guest speakers was Chris McKelvey, associate chaplain at the Spiritual Community Centre. McKelvey has been involved in the planning of the centre.
“The experience [at the open house] was very gratifying. It was good to see who had shown up and who expressed an interest in what we’re doing,” said McKelvey.
Students from different student groups have also shown a keen interest in the purpose and goal of the centre.
Members of the Muslim Student Association also partook in the opening ceremony, with Noor Amin, one of the student members, who recited verses from the Quran during the ceremony.
“In Islam we are taught to be good to your neighbour,” said Omron Ghadban, president of the Muslim Students Association at the college. “For many years Muslims have been living side by side with different beliefs and I have read about it many times, but to experience it for myself is truly a blessing from Allah, the opening ceremony was somewhat of an ice breaker,” he said.
“My thoughts on the Spiritual Centre are that it is a blessing from Allah, without the will of Allah and Algonquin College taking the initiative of providing all faiths with a place to come together and put all differences aside and to pray, is something spectacular and that can only happen in a great country like Canada.”
The Spiritual Community Centre also offers spiritual counselling for students, who are often referred to the centre by the counselling services on the third floor of the new Student Commons building.
The Spiritual Community Centre is now officially open from Mondays to Wednesdays 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday and Fridays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.