Father Henry Carr Catholic School’s world religion class participates in a video conference call with students from Israel. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Building bridges to Israel

  • December 13, 2012

TORONTO - Students in Miles Fernandes’ world religions class learned that despite living half a world away, they really aren’t much different than their counterparts in an Israeli classroom.

Through the magic of Skype, the Father Henry Carr High School class engaged in talks of peace, brotherhood and leisure activities with a class in Israel Dec. 3.

“The idea is to try to reach out to the other person, in peace, so that we are able to understand their perspective and build the bridges,” said Fernandes, religion department head at the Toronto Catholic high school. “We’re basically walking in someone else’s footsteps and trying to see things from their point of view and change our points of view if need be. It’s a learning experience for them … learning from another person.”

The conversation was facilitated by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Face to Faith program. The interfaith charitable foundation, which was established in 2008 by the former British prime minister, provides students in 19 countries the ability to converse with each other through Face to Faith.

While the students discussed an array of topics, they soon realized that despite living in different hemispheres the groups shared plenty in common.

“I was wondering one day what my own religion thinks of others,” said Chris Adjei-Bediako, a Grade 11 student at Henry Carr. “I came up with the idea that we’re all pretty much brothers in a way. I don’t see how people can’t see it as I see it where we’re all sort of related in a way.”

Adjei-Bediako continued to tell the students from Israel’s Tichon Hadash High School that he arrived at this after being inspired by a Muslim friend’s dedication to faith. This caused the young Christian to explore his own Scripture deeper.

From reading the Bible, and learning about the Muslim faith through his friend, Adjei-Bediako began to notice similarities. As he aged and explored more religions, such as Judaism, Adjei-Bediako said he discovered the similarities between Christians and Muslims overlapped into other faiths as well.

Similar thoughts echoed back to Canada from the young Israelis.

“Most of us do believe in harmony and peace,” said a female student from Tichon Hadash. “I personally think that we are all the same and also I think that we should behave the same from one religion to another.”

These words of peace and harmony come out of a nation plagued by continuous conflict, one that had the nation on high alert in late November when Israel retaliated heavily against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank for eight days of rocket attacks.

Although the students were restricted from directly talking about the unrest, comments surrounding interfaith violence, mandatory conscription and marginalization filled much of the hour-long conversation.

“These students are advanced placement students so they have those kind of skills to deal with life situations, life’s problems,” said Fernandes.

“This is the kind of discussion that we have in our classroom so it really doesn’t surprise me that they would bring these perspectives to the table and just share it with others.”

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