The Spirit of Social Change: Youth, Spirituality, and Social Action

Below are some thoughts shared by participants who took part in a unique Couchiching Conversation on April 2nd at the University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre, on The Spirit of Social Change: Youth, Spirituality, and Social Action. The speakers have chosen to remain anonymous.

  • It is not just about the end goals sometimes, it is every moment along the way. What are my beliefs and then how do they impact every single moment along the way? That’s part of being conscious of your core principles, not just on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Having that as a part of you, a sense of consciousness. In Islam we have this concept of “God consciousness”. You can’t just review your core principles every year – it is living with that presence, remembering God, and why we are all here. It is not just the end goal, but why we are here.
  • "There is a spiritual void in society, and people try to fill it with different things. People are reaching for some kind of spirituality – whether through yoga or whatever. Youth are trying to grasp onto something more than what is spoon-fed to them. They want to blaze their own trail. Your spiritual values set the path you want to take in life, which affects the direction you go. It forms your benchmarks, where you pause and reflect on where I am going in life, and the purpose of life. Is this the right direction I want to go in? If this what my faith says I should consider?

  • When do you get to have these conversations with people? Often when you are talking about spirituality or faith, most people want to stay on the surface level, arguing the facts. The second you get deeper (what is the end goal, why are you here), people get super uncomfortable. It’s just not something in my experience you are trained to think about. Whether you are in a faith community or not. The second you go beyond the facts, and ask those questions, people completely shut down the conversation. I’m here because people don’t have these conversations on a regular basis.

  • Maybe we shouldn’t focus on differences; we don’t have to agree on everything. Sometimes when people approach religion from a secular standpoint, they say I don’t agree with this and I don’t agree with that. Well, okay. That’s fine. That’s natural. We don’t have to all agree on what we think is right, and how we live our lives. When did that become an absolute principle that we all have to agree on each other’s religious doctrines or beliefs? People become uncomfortable when they disagree with another person’s religion or spirituality, but that should be okay. Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater an impose uniformity. If it’s a melting pot, I don’t want to be in your pot. Let’s disagree and carry on with our relationship. It can be more difficult with institutions, but on a day-to-day basis we need to become more comfortable with disagreement.

  • When I came to Canada from Lebanon, the timidity was a relief to me. Ethnic and religious identities have been a cause of conflict. Where I come from, people want less of that expression. It has led to so much bloodshed. In my personal life, my own name is a non-religious name because at that time in Lebanese history Muslims were being killed because of their religion. It has shaped my life. Religion has always been a difficult subject for me, just because of what my people have been through. I was relieved to be in Canada where people can be politically correct around religion. These different countries are all on different paths. In terms of moral maturity, maybe we’re not there yet.

  • Coming from Europe, and from Anglo-Saxon countries, I found that coming to Canada to me it seemed like a very secular space. You don’t hear church bells or the Imam coming to sing the call to prayer. I feel disconnected in that sense. I think Canada is quite a secular society. We should be more informed about the beliefs of communities. Communities should communicate more with each other. This will allow us to understand more about the spiritual needs of communities, and that way we don’t live in bubbles. We should talk beyond religion and spirituality to look at existential questions. This will allow us to get over barriers between us.

  • Even discussing concepts of spirituality may be part of your religious expression. Everyone comes into society with a certain set of beliefs, but in Canadian society we don’t see the institutional expressions of religion so visible. Maybe talking about spiritual concepts in our daily lives and public discourse is a way of bringing religion into the secular space?

  • On a professional level – I am a public servant – the reason I got into government is that I believe in contributing to a greater social good. That has a lot to do with religion, but no one mentions it. People talk about their ideological or political commitments, but no one talks about where their other values come from. We talk about values of liberty, freedom, etc. But we never hear about the religious roots of these values. At work I would never say that I believe in this because my spiritual beliefs have guided me to this point.


Location: University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre

Date: Tuesday, April 2nd, 6-8pm

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