THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
Our Education Initiative
Through education, we are building public knowledge and discourse for issues of persecution, marginalization and inequality across religious groups through. Mentorship for marginalized youth to provide them with knowledge and skills necessary to support themselves and uplift their community.
Education is needed to drive meaningful social change. In South Africa for example, there has been a large push towards using education as the primary preventative method for the spread of HIV/AIDs (Francis, 2010). Other social issues have also demonstrated the power of education to create change in popular culture. For example, a study from 1946 to 2018 showed dramatic change in the perspective of a women’s position in society, with positive progression and empowerment of women being evident over time (Eagly, Nater, Miller, Kaufmann, & Sczesny, 2020).
Thus, it is well established that education is a powerful tool for empowering change in popular society. As such, we at The Common Denominator (TCD) aim to make use of this powerful tool to create a change in stereotyping and treatment of individuals because of their religious belief. Mistreatment and stereotyping of persons based on their faith is no small issue. One study, based on the Canadian General Survey, found that Muslims and Jews had higher reports of experiencing religious discrimination than those in other religious minority groups and as such the confidence of Muslims in public and political institutions has been reduced (Dilmaghani, 2019). It is no secret that there has been conflict between Muslims and government in Canada, creating widespread Islamophobic sentiments in the country, especially in Quebec (Wilkins-Laflamme, 2018) where the controversial Bill 21 was recently passed.
To combat these issues of stereotyping and inequality across religious groups many solutions have been proposed, one of which is to create an interfaith dialogue. At its basis, interfaith dialogue is an educational tool to help individuals from across different religious groups form an understanding of common practices and traditions. At TCD we plan to help facilitate this dialogue, to build communities which can find common grounds despite numerous differences in belief. Currently we are working closely with the Calgary Interfaith Council (CIC) to help promote their platform of interfaith dialogue in a more digestible way using our experience on multi-media platforms.
Our events have also facilitated an interfaith dialogue, as we have provided a platform for multiple faith groups to simultaneously describe their struggles and experiences with persecution simultaneously to a diverse audience. In 2021, we hosted two such events, both titled “Faith and Martyrdom” where we had speakers from Christian, Ahmadi Muslim and Uyghur Muslim groups speak on their knowledge and experiences with faith-based persecution.
Another important issue in education is that of health inequalities present in religious minority groups within Canada. Recent studies have looked at the mental and physical health implications with regards to these groups in Canada. One issue of note that requires more education is that larger religious affiliations such as Christian or Muslim do not well represent the mosaic nature of religion in the world. Within large faith groups, there are multiple sects/denominations/branches within them that each experience varying degrees of inequality and persecution. In Islam, there are upwards of 73 sects, with similar numbers in Christianity and Judaism. Within Canada, some of these groups experience disproportionate physical and mental health disadvantages. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian minority faith, have demonstrated significantly lower mental and physical health when compared to other faiths in Canada (Dilmaghani, 2018). Jehovah’s Witnesses have been well documented as being one of the most highly persecuted Christian minorities.
In effort to combat these health inequalities, TCD took multiple initiatives to educate the public on these issues of health inequalities for persecuted religious groups. In 2021, we hosted an event titled “Finding The Common Denominator to Health”, where we hosted multiple experts in medicine and research to speak on the topic of health inequalities in persecuted religious minorities. In our most recent podcast “World in Perspective”, which we hosted on the YouTube platform, we have also tackled the issue of health in religious minorities in hopes to educate the public on this matter.
As such, we at TCD hope to continue in these educational efforts, hosting events, multi-media campaigns, collaborations, and fundraisers to educate the public on the many social issues faced by vulnerable religious minorities. While we have already begun our message of education, we need to expand our platform and message to reach government officials and representatives to drive change for better implications in health and living conditions for all groups regardless of faith affiliation.
Reference to articles in the text above:
Dilmaghani, M. (2018). Religious Identity and Health Inequalities in Canada. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-017-0640-2
Dilmaghani, M. (2019). Perceived religious discrimination and confidence in Canadian institutions. Ethnic and Racial Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2018.1539505
Eagly, A. H., Nater, C., Miller, D. I., Kaufmann, M., & Sczesny, S. (2020). Gender stereotypes have changed: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of U.S. public opinion polls from 1946 to 2018. American Psychologist. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000494
Francis, D. A. (2010). Sexuality education in South Africa: Three essential questions. International Journal of Educational Development. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2009.12.003
Wilkins-Laflamme, S. (2018). Islamophobia in Canada: Measuring the Realities of Negative Attitudes Toward Muslims and Religious Discrimination. Canadian Review of Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1111/cars.12180