I had originally written another address for this afternoon. One that talked more about our theme - the Joy of Dreaming Big. It talked about our small grassroots, our growth, and pointed out the ongoing need for us to continue to do our work of creating housing, and our role in helping to bring the housing crisis to an end. And if you want to hear that speech – I look forward to seeing you at our AGM in April.
Because, like all of you, I have been watching the news. And the very distressing events that we see unfolding in front of us - every day. And like you, I experience that same level of powerlessness in the face of great tragedy. Therefore, I decided to shelve my original address, so I could speak to you more from the heart.
Many of you will know that when I started with MHI back in January 2013, I had no experience in the housing industry. My background is in comparative religion. It is where I learned that people of the world’s faiths have so much more in common, in every single way, than they have differences.
My master’s degree is in conflict studies. And my thesis was on genocide. This was where I learned what tools and methods could be used and implemented in a very process driven way, to create absolute suffering. I don’t think it will come as a shock to you when I say that one of the most common tools used to divide humankind throughout the history, Is religion. (Note I say Tool and not cause).
Thus, my great attraction to MHI was the multifaith aspect of the charity. Here was an organization that took the markers along the road to conflict, division, and violence, and in our own small and local way – using religion as its tool, and housing as its method, walked those paths in reverse. MHI brings people together. Our religious differences do not divide us. They enrich us.
I want to thank you all for coming here today. I knew you would. You will note we are in a different location than originally planned, and you might be surprised to learn that this is the National Housing Day Interfaith Service that almost didn’t happen.
The security people at City Hall saw the risk of opening this weekend as too high. Today’s gathering was rescued by strong interventions of Councillors David Hill, Matt Lulloff and Mayor Sutcliff. It is thanks to them that we are here at all. And we are very grateful to them for believing in the importance of this gathering, and responding so rapidly to our SOS.
Now, I recognize that for some of you, sitting in this room may feel hard. But maybe, this is exactly where you need to be. Because in my mind’s eye, of all the years we have held these interfaith services – this is the most important one. In this room. Here. Together, we stand as an example of what community should look like. Because we all belong. No matter what faith tradition you find home in, we are all part of the same human family.
We don’t find division in diversity. We are enriched by it. We are enriched because of it. And because of who we are – not despite it - we have been gifted with the ability to serve the community in the most meaningful of ways.
We provide those most at risk, most in need of our help, with a home. We give them a safe place to live, and a welcoming community in which to grow and thrive. A place where they are welcomed and valued. Where diversity is not just respected, but honoured.
And we live those values not just in our housing communities, but in every other aspect of MHI: in our committees, our volunteer groups, our staff, our board, our Patrons – and in you. We are the Multifaith Housing Initiative. Let us be an example. Let us shine bright so that others can see us through the darkness. The world needs more MHI. So let’s give it to them. Thank you for being here.
Speech Originally presented at National housing day, November 2023