By Hunter Culhane
The sixth annual Faces of Faith conference was held at Milton District High School on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018.
With the aim of promoting tolerance and acceptance of various religions within the MDHS community, guest speakers from different faiths were invited to attend the event and discuss their beliefs with all Grade 11 students.
This year, the Haudenosaunee, Canadian Indigenous, Jewish, Islamic, Bahá’í, Wicca, Hindu, Anglican, Buddhist, and Sikh faiths were represented by ten different speakers. Mormon, Zoroastrian, and Confucianist speakers have also attended in the past, though they were not present this year.
Also not present this year was beloved World Religions teacher Ms. Mooney, who, regretfully, was unable to make it to this year’s event. She will return to MDHS next semester.
In place of Ms. Mooney, new World Religions teacher Mr. Moffatt and Librarian Ms. Carson led in planning the event. They contacted the speakers with information about the day, giving them a heads-up to a few of the questions they might be asked during it.
Weeks before the day arrived, students in the World Religions class formed a group of two or three and were assigned one of the ten faiths. Students generated dozens of questions about each faith to ask the speakers. They would also be responsible for guiding the speakers around the school.
For their help in planning the event, Grade 11 students from MD’s World Religions class received a Faces of Faith T-shirt to wear during the day as thanks for their hard work.
The day itself began early; Grade 11 World Religion students met with their group in the Library at 8:00 a.m. and received their own name tags. Folders with information about the day’s schedule were also given to students to read over.
The morning of Tuesday, November 22nd, was quite snowy. A few speakers took longer than expected to arrive at MD. When they did arrive, Grade 11 students greeted them with smiles and explained how the day would flow.
Some speakers brought displays about their faith they wished to use during the event. Student leaders braved the cold in their Faces of Faith T-shirts and carried the displays from the speakers’ cars in the parking lot to the Theatre!
At 9:00 a.m., all Grade 11 students were called to the Theatre from their Period 1 classes so the conference could begin.
The ten faith speakers sat in chairs on the stage, facing hundreds of students in the audience. Following an introduction to the day’s events by Principal Ms. Baksys, the faith speakers were each asked one question by emcee Anna to which they responded.
In one of the more memorable moments, the Jewish faith speaker was asked about the impact of the recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on the Jewish community. He expressed his thanks to those from other faiths who participated in prayers for the victims of the tragedy—many of whom were the faith speakers on stage.
It was truly a remarkable moment for MDHS’s Grade 11 students seeing ten different people from ten different faiths so close together.
The session in the Theatre wrapped up early; there was no question and answer period as there has been in previous years. The Theatre session served only as a preview for what would come in the classroom presentations.
Each of the ten faith speakers travelled from the Theatre to a Grade 11 classroom where they began a more in-depth discussion about their faith. The speakers talked about their core beliefs, gods, the afterlife, and the role of women in their faith, among others. After their presentations concluded, students were free to ask any questions they had about the speaker’s faith.
The faith speakers rotated to three or four classrooms during the day, each lasting about 20 minutes. Due to the early Theatre wrap-up, the first classroom presentation rotation lasted 35 minutes, much more than the 20 minutes allotted.
Around 12:00 p.m., Grade 11 students were invited to lunch. The free food included “spicy” samosas, muffins, cookies, and juice. A few speakers left during lunch, while others were able to stay and chat with some of MD’s teachers.
It was at this time that the Grade 11 World Religion students presented each faith speaker with a thank you card and a gift bag containing a mug with the MDHS logo.
This year’s Faces of Faith conference at Milton District High School was one to remember. Students, staff, and speakers agree that the goal of promoting tolerance and acceptance of various religions was achieved during the day. The effect of this day will last for the entire year—and beyond.
See you next year for another successful conference!