Intercultural Dialogue Institute GTA
Two types of Ramadan Events are offered. Meet Your Neighbour are intimate dinners in a host family's home. Ramadan Iftar dinners are the bigger marquee community events, organized with partners and include a theme for lecture or panel discussion (ex: interfaith, inclusion in the justice system, youth engagement, hunger and child poverty, refugees). A portion of the evening is always dedicated to explaining Ramadan to the guests. There is always a sense of harmony and openness and IDI actively cultivates inclusion in their events.
IDI was inspired by the work that its sister organizations were doing in the United States. IDI and its sister organizations are inspired by the works of Fethullah Gulen, who teaches that increased dialogue and interaction will lead to better understanding of the other. The personal experiences of the founders of IDI—Turkish immigrants to Canada—also played a part in the establishment of annual Ramadan events because they understood the importance of greater community integration.
The focus of the Ramadan Events is to increase the interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims to reduce or eliminate false stereotypes and dismantle the negative narrative surrounding Islam. The larger Iftar Dinners approach this on a macro scale, partnering with different organizations to expand its base. Meet Your Neighbour is a more personal approach in a host family’s home and it helps these families develop a sense of pride and belonging in their community.
The very first event IDI held was an interfaith Iftar dinner in 2005, when the misrepresentations of Muslims in the media began to intensify and there was tension among faith groups, especially with regards to Muslims. The Institute grew out of that first interfaith dinner. Pew research has shown that there is a 34 percent impact on better relations with person-to-person interaction and the Ramadan Events are centered around this.
Making a Difference:
Three excellent examples of lasting benefits are:
1) Families who have been hosted, will then invite their Muslim family hosts for dinner outside of Ramadan.
2) A Jewish family that was hosted by a Muslim family during Ramadan then hosted that family for a Sabbath dinner.
3) Newcomers are using this as a resource to meet people and form a network, to better integrate into their communities.
The main challenge to the Ramadan Events is funding. These events are free in an effort to bring in as many different levels of society for such an interaction. This leads to a dependence on grants and generous donations. Other challenges have been finding host families and partner organizations for the two parts of the Initiative and moderators and speakers for each type of event. This is why finding partners, working with the media, and gaining positive attention is so important.
Vision for the Future:
The vision for the future is to continue to grow and find partners and hosts to work with the Ramadan Events in an effort to bring greater intercultural and interfaith interaction, understanding, and acceptance. IDI hopes to work with the RCMP and the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto for next year’s events, among other perennial partners. IDI continues to try to find communities that have no interactions with Muslims, in order to reach beyond the usual participants.
-Changing people’s misconceptions about Muslims;
-Allowing people to interact with a community they don’t know (except through negative and misleading stereotypes); and
-Systemic change initiated by politicians who attend these dinners.
The Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to advance social cohesion through personal interaction by promoting respect and mutual understanding among people of all cultures and faiths through dialogue and partnership. IDI aims to promote enduring interfaith and intercultural cooperation, tolerance and dialogue by sharing our differences and similarities in an effort to enhance civil society, to promote the development of human values, and to advance diversity and multiculturalism within society. The Institute aims to eliminate or reduce false stereotypes, prejudices, and unjustified fears through direct human communication. By this mission, IDI aims to contribute to the improvement of diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism throughout Canada.