by Jennifer Gearey
The spiritual community
animators for Montreal-area schools have just completed a course
in Concordias Department of Theological Studies to prepare them
for the pluralistic classroom.
course, called Religious Pluralism in a Secular Culture, was designed
to respond to legislation that has reorganized Quebecs 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
Departments 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 Concordias 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
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 thats not so. More people are interested
in religion than ever before. Its just that they want to experience
and understand it, and thats a longer process.