On Wednesday, February 20th the Parliament welcomed representatives from the Toronto World Interfaith Harmony Week Committee for the third webinar in our World Interfaith Harmony Week Webinar Series. Inspired by the work being done by the committee in the city of Toronto, we invited Rev. Michelle Singh and John Voorpostel to present in the webinar From Winning, To Building and share their experiences in observing WIHW, organizing an award-winning event, and building a network dedicated to the observance in their community.
Founded in 2012 by John Voorpostel, the WIHW Toronto Steering Committee held its inaugural meeting at the offices of the Toronto Catholic Archdiocese on October 21 and their first World Interfaith Harmony Week events were in 2013.
From the beginning, the mission has been to create and widen awareness of World Interfaith Harmony Week within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and to help plan, conceptualize, facilitate and coordinate its events.
The foundational values are respect for all faiths and beliefs and peoples of goodwill, and the firm belief that there is great value in knowing each other and working together.
In 2015, the committee organized eight events and was selected as the third place winners of the 2015 World Interfaith Harmony Week observance. The success of their events is inspiring but we are especially energized by the model they have in place to host successful WIHW celebrations on a multi-year basis. Learn more about their work at InterfaithToronto.ca
Here are 3 things we learned about building an interfaith committee and hosting a winning WIHW event:
1. Host events that touch your heart and engage the mainstream community
The committee develops a yearly theme for the local community that focuses on ideas and issues that are important in their communities and are strategically organized to appeal to the mainstream community. On this point, be sure to engage guiding institutions and politicians if possible. In Toronto, the committee has successfully worked with the mayor to recognize WIHW citywide and are working to widen their network to get WIHW recognized at a national level.
2. Be consistent and have touch points throughout the year
Whether you are starting a working group to celebrate WIHW or have an organization that celebrates every year, be sure to remain consistent in your plans. John and Michelle recommend having touch points throughout the year that allow you to connect with local partners and attendees.
3. Have a diversity of programming and be creative in the celebrations
Focus on organizing events that are diverse and creative. While Aftab and Helen from our first two webinars emphasized the importance of focusing on the principles of WIHW, Michelle and John share the importance of focusing on ways that help people connect with each other. Performing arts and culture are an easy way to build an engaged audience!
The Toronto Model, which was inspired by the Caravan Model, is a great model to follow if you are an organizer interested in building a working group, committee, or organization that celebrates UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. As Michelle and John stated, it starts with bringing people together and the rest will come.
Missed the webinar? Watch the recording! Available now on our YouTube Channel
The Parliament's World Interfaith Harmony Week Webinar Series is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in these webinars are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.