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National Interfaith Dialogue Fosters Inclusive, Anti-Racist Faith Communities

Imam Michael Taylor, in his remarks, spoke of his faith journey and the milieu in which he grew up in the Carribean island of Barbados.  

“Racism worldwide and the most difficult parts of racism is anti-Black racism. It seems that regardless of religion or race or the place you are in the world anti-Black racism is the most virulent form of this disease that possesses humans.”

He spoke of how religious believers often fail to live up to the teachings of their faith, especially around the issue of race.

“The fundamental teachings of Islam around race situates Islam as an anti-racist religion,” he said. 

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“However, the high expectations of my religion of Islam has somehow seemed to have escaped Muslims and the high expectations of all of our faith traditions about anti-racism seem to have proved hard for believers to live up to.” 

Dismantling Oppression

Sarah Guinta, Coordinator of the Office of Justice and Peace at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, proposed that faith communities engage in reflection on the issues of race and their support of systems of oppression. 

“Offerings and resources that centers and amplifies Black and Indigenous voices are a way to dismantle oppression in our schools, places of work and our places of worship.”

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“As a faith community offering intentional reflection and examination of conscience that touches  specifically on race and complicity is one pathway to consider – for example, how do I personally benefit from systems of oppression, have I been silent in moments when I should have been vocal, have I looked at others for the unique value and gifts that they possess or have I looked for deficiencies, have I stepped outside my comfort zone to serve my community, have i helped directly without the expectation of recognition.”

Zarfishan Qureshi, a Chaplaincy Intern at Multi-Faith Centre, University of Toronto eloquently articulated that structurally racism must be addressed in our society.

“It can be damaging if we continue to talk about racism as an individual struggle as opposed to an institutional force present within our society. Failing to recognize that structural racism instilled in our communities is harmful, especially because it comes at the cost of those who experience it. It removes all responsibility from the institutions that uphold it and it places the blame on the individual experiencing racism.”

“Treating racism as a case by case occurrence builds the idea and adds to the narrative that our society is not at fault and it makes us complacent as to how racism manifests itself in our society as a whole but, at a personal level, in our own actions.”

Following the panel presentations, participants met in breakout rooms and discussed ways to strengthen the culture of mutual racial acceptance on both an individual and systemic level.

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