Doing Dialogue – a New Approach to Understanding

RADIUS Fellow Sarah Beley discusses her project on Intercultural/faith Dialogue. All photos courtesy of the Mosaic Institute.

Inspired and formulated within the discussions and events participated through the Radius fellowship, I have arrived at the idea of a project in interfaith/intercultural dialogue.
Dialogue is the coming together of groups to engage in a face-to-face conversation in which small groups of diverse individuals can exchange and weigh ideas and opinions about a particular issue. It is not debate-style winner-takes-all, but the identification of core values, what we have in common, and what we have that overlaps rather than what is different. Discussions stem from personal experiences and examine multiple views and perspectives. Consensus is not necessarily the definition of success for a dialogue, but rather that a group ideally would understand the complexities and perspectives of the issue.
In the past, I have struggled with the compartmentalization of many issues I could see as interrelated. I believe interfaith and intercultural dialogue could be a part of the solution by deepening the conversation on issues usually discussed only from a scientific, economic or academic background. Dialogue becomes a more inclusive tool to engage communities not typically involved in important conversations.  Cultural literacy is vital to understanding, communication, and inclusive engagement.  Rather than looking at voter apathy from solely an academic or statistical background, how would the conversation be deepened if we included a cultural perspective?


Photo credit: Mosaic Institute

From my quest to identify and understand interfaith/ cultural dialogues taking place in Vancouver, I discovered that while Vancouver does deliberative democracy/ community engagement dialogue quite well, there appears to be a lack of intercultural/faith dialogues taking place, something that is more common in Eastern Canada.
This lead to a very interesting early morning phone interview with the Mosaic Institute’s executive director John Monahan. The Mosaic Institute in Toronto aims to create trust and reduce tensions among community members in Canada and to help find solutions to international conflicts abroad.  Mosaic guides and facilitates dialogues made up of Canadians with family and or community connections to international conflicts abroad, allowing participants to explore the different dimensions of conflicts with individuals they may normally have seen as an adversary, seeking common ground with one another and to work towards sustainable peace and healing.
John Monahan acknowledged the perceived difference in dialogue between Western and Eastern Canada, but couldn’t really explain why this existed.  He pondered the role the environment had on the community dynamics of Vancouverites — that perhaps the constant reminder of the environment was a unifying factor that crossed cultures as a more pressing and evident unifier.
This has led me to want to explore and create interfaith/ intercultural dialogues within Vancouver. I have been given the opportunity to participate as a fellow for Fossil Free Faith, an interfaith consortium using dialogue as a tool for divestment from fossil fuels. I hope to help build more outlets and opportunities for meaningful dialogues and that is why I am asking for the RADIUS community for connections, advice, and info about other initiatives taking place within Vancouver. I think we value hearing each other’s narratives and stories, and I hope to expand and build upon this.
You can contact Sarah at sarah.h.beley[at]