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Opening doors to religious understanding
Opening the door was all it took to bring in people curious to know more about different faiths in Greater Victoria.
Over the past three months, seven places of worship have hosted open houses to welcome the public, including those from other faiths, to create understanding, dispel any misconceptions and build a strong sense of community.
The eighth and final open house takes place this Sunday (April 17) at the Ismaili Jamatkhana Muslim Centre, capping off a successful inter-faith initiative.
"It really confirms the diversity and the richness in the Greater Victoria region," said Steven Baileys, multicultural program co-ordinator with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.
Together with the Victoria Multifaith Society and the South Island Dispute Resolution Centre, the three organizations have helped facilitate a unique learning and sharing opportunity.
"I think most Victorians don't realize the doors to these places of worship are always open to folks to be able to attend and observe," Baileys explained.
The idea developed out of a two-part Inter-faith Dialogue Project that brought together people to talk about their different faiths in order to promote religious tolerance and understanding, said Baileys, project co-ordinator.
Since starting up the open houses, each has attracted between 45 and 100 people wanting to experience different worship customs for such faiths as Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Muslim, Sikh and Unitarian.
"What comes out of that exchange is an appreciation and a deepening of awareness about ourselves and each other," Baileys added. "It's been an amazing journey."
The open houses may be only the beginning of future multi-faith endeavors. Organizers hope to one day host another open-house series featuring cultural cooking classes, known as Faith, Food and Community, Baileys explained.
The next free, family-friendly event takes place Sunday (April 17) from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Ismaili Jamatkhana Muslim Centre, 1250 Esquimalt Rd. For more information, please visit www.icavictoria.org.