The Spiritual Centre is quiet except for some chatter and laughter as the third Interfaith Dialog session of the year begins.
Cheryl Gaver, a volunteer that created the discussion group in hopes that people will be able to learn something new about other people’s religions and their own, does not look surprised by the lack of attendance.
“We had plans to start it in the fall, and the strike delayed it – of course,” she states. “And then the first week was your exams from last semester, so this is actually the second time this semester.”
Despite the delay, Gaver is confident that more people will turn up once word gets around.
She got the idea to create the Interfaith Dialog group within the college after some Algonquin students that went to her church came to her asking for some sort of activity that would involve different faiths. Gaver was happy to oblige these requests, as she has always had an interest in different religions herself.
Each one offers a lesson that can help people feel stronger in their own faith.
“You will never learn more about your own faith until you learn about others,” Gaver says.
The meaning of Gaver’s words are emphasized when she admits that the Trump administration, and its controversial decisions regarding those who practice Islam, is an added motivation to create the group. She expresses how important it is that people do not allow themselves to be divided by religion.
And it’s important to respect people’s individual beliefs without fear or stigma clouding their judgement.
“I thank Trump for having made some things very clear, that we can’t just sit by. We have to take a stand,” she says.
Ultimately, Gaver hopes that the Interfaith Dialog sessions will serve as a safe-place for students of different faiths to have discussions that are often sensitive to have even among close friends and family.
“We can talk to one another about religion without being afraid of insulting someone else or losing our own, you know. We’re not going to become less of who we are and that we start to learn…we get past the stereotypes,” she says. “I think that would be the best thing, that we get past the stereotypes.”