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November 23, 2000



Pamela Bright, Chair of Theological Studies, on a tour of a Hindu temple.

Pamela Bright, Chair of Theological Studies, on a tour of a Hindu temple.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj.


by Jennifer Gearey

The “spiritual community animators” for Montreal-area schools have just completed a course in Concordia’s Department of Theological Studies to prepare them for the pluralistic classroom.

The course, called Religious Pluralism in a Secular Culture, was designed to respond to legislation that has reorganized Quebec’s school board system along linguistic, rather than religious, lines.

Although the system is now nominally secular, parent committees may adopt a religious orientation for their own school. However, most schools are likely to offer a broad-based program in values and religious pluralism, and it is this approach that was addressed by course given at Concordia. The policy governing religious animation in the schools is expected to be in effect in high schools by September 2001 and in elementary schools by 2002.

Pamela Bright, Chair of Theological Studies, and Christine Jamieson, the Department’s ethicist, re-designed a course called Christian Society and Culture to give the animators a perspective on other religions. An advocate of the view that the secularization of the school system does not mean abandoning religious education altogether, her efforts have received support from the Ministry of Education.

The participants in this course explored such topics as the meaning of “a secular culture,” the role of Christianity in the development of human rights, and the meaning of religious identity in the 21st century.

The 30 participants took their sessions at Concordia’s downtown campus on four successive weekends, and finished November 17 by taking a tour with other students of sacred sites in central Montreal. They went to a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque, and a Jewish synagogue, all unfamiliar places to most of them.

Sharma Kamal Nain told the visitors about the flexibility of Hinduism. There are many ways to seek God, but the God found is one and the same. “We worship different names but not different gods. God is only one. It is said that God is within you so you can practice religion any way you want.”

Samaa El Ibyari, a member of the Fatima Mosque, told the visitors, “The simple fact that you are here in the house of God, of Allah, is a sharing of our faith.”

Linda Pomkoski, a pastoral animator from Our Lady of Peace and Terry Fox High Schools, said that a poll taken last year found that 85 per cent of parents would like the government to leave religious education alone.

“Children are hungry for God,” she said. “There is a misconception that religion is dying, but that’s not so. More people are interested in religion than ever before. It’s just that they want to experience and understand it, and that’s a longer process.”