About the Multi-Faith Centre
Beliefs are a big part of who we are and how we learn, and while U of T is a secular institution, we respect everyone’s right to worship. The Multi-Faith Centre supports the spiritual well-being of everyone on campus and provides opportunities for people to learn from each other while exploring questions of meaning, purpose and identity. Our facilities and programs accommodate a wide variety of spiritual and faith-based practices and encourage interfaith dialogue and spiritual development as part of the learning experience for all students.
Spiritual diversity at the University of Toronto
The remarkable diversity of the student population of the University of Toronto creates a welcome new dimension to campus life. Many students today bring with them to the University not only the cultural traditions in which they were raised, but a set of spiritual beliefs that acts as an important part of their identity and further development. At the same time, the study of religion and spirituality is being recognized in many academic disciplines as holding the answers to some of today’s most complex problems.
While the University of Toronto is a secular institution, its students and staff are not necessarily easily defined as secular members. Institutions across North America have been grappling with the issue of how to accommodate the spiritual needs of their students and create opportunities for interfaith dialogue and exploration, while remaining true to their secular mandates and not privileging religion.
It has been suggested that to dismiss the spiritual needs of students and to push religion to the margins of campus life not only wastes a valuable educational opportunity, but may alienate students from the institution. For students from communities outside of the traditional Judeo-Christian spectrum, the absence of space and scheduling accommodations which acknowledge their spiritual practices means their disaffection is even more acute. Further, members of many religious groups point to a link between spiritual development and academic success for students; this relationship is only fully realized when students’ spiritual needs are recognized and respected in the academic context.
The solution to accommodating burgeoning diversity and interest in spirituality at many North American universities has been to create flexible, multi-purpose spaces suitable for religious accommodations and a variety of other purposes – facilities dedicated to no one faith or religion, but designed to both accommodate spiritual practice and to facilitate dialogue.
Perhaps nowhere has spiritual pluralism been more pronounced than at the University of Toronto. For a decade or more, members of this community have drawn attention to the need for facilities and initiatives to address inequities in the way religious needs and practices are accommodated.
In 1999-2000, the University recognized some 75 different student health andedicated to religious and spiritual practice. The Campus Chaplains’ Association has grown to include spiritual leaders of more than 20 denominations, including all of the world’s major religions, making it one of the most diverse organizations of its kind.
Given the historical relationships between the U of T’s federated colleges and Christian churches, there has emerged, quite naturally, some concern for equity among non-Christian groups. This has taken the form, primarily, of the demand for prayer and worship space on campus.
Throughout the 1990s, the University of Toronto has taken a number of steps to accommodate the spiritual needs of the community:
- Hart House, the University’s central cultural facility, has made changes to its chapel to open it up for a variety of uses.
- More than 400 Muslims gather in the Hart House debates room every Friday afternoon for Jumu'ah prayers.
- At the International Student Centre, students use quiet rooms to meditate and pray.
On March 25, 2007, the Multi-faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice in the Koffler Institute (formerly the Koffler Institute of Pharmacy Management) at 569 Spadina Avenue officially opened its doors to the University community. The project was designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects . As noted by the Globe and Mail, the main activity hall is a room for all faiths and a site to marvel.
Vision and purpose
The purpose of the Multi-Faith Centre is to support the spiritual well-being of students, staff and faculty and to increase our understanding of and respect for religious beliefs and practices. It does so by providing opportunities for members of the community to engage in questions of meaning, purpose and identity and to reflect, worship, contemplate, teach and learn, read and study, celebrate, mourn, engage in dialogue and interact on a daily basis.
- To provide facilities and related services to support the religious and spiritual practices of faith communities represented at the University of Toronto.
- To nurture spiritual well-being through the provision of religious and spiritual care, resources and an environment that values spirituality.
- To further our understanding of the role faith and religion play in a number of academic disciplines.
- To celebrate the diversity of the University of Toronto community and to benefit from the richness of our differences; and
- To contribute to an end to religious conflict worldwide by providing opportunities for members of different faiths to interact, learn from and respect each other.
These objectives are achieved through the day-to-day activities of the Centre, including:
- Prayer, worship and other spiritual practices
- Educational events, such as conferences, panel discussions, forums, and guest speakers
- On-site chaplaincy, including spiritual counselling and guidance
- Social events, including those involving food
- Quiet, solitary contemplation and reflection
- Research, reading, teaching and learning
- Community service opportunities