Women of various faiths work side by side in Scarborough, Ontario, on October 26, 2017, to build homes for Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area (Habitat GTA). Wearing hard hats, work boots and tool belts, the women represented Hindu, Indigenous, Islamic, Jewish and various Christian faiths. Among the Christian groups were women from the Brampton Ontario Stake and Toronto Ontario Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 2008, Judy Csillag — who, with Tanya Khan, Rev. Cathy Gibbs and Rabbi Lori Cohen, founded an interfaith women’s group in the Greater Toronto Area — organized the first Women of Faith Build event in conjunction with Habitat GTA as a way for women of diverse faiths to give back to the community. She believes that when women of faith build homes together, they also build bridges to celebrate diversity and inclusion.
Csillag organized the 2017 Women of Faith Build as a pre-event for the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions to be held in Toronto, Ontario, and in conjunction with the Faith in Canada 150 initiative. (The 2015 parliament was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church is headquartered.) She welcomed this year’s participants by saying, “Working together is akin to praying together.”
Dr. Larry Greenfield, executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, visited the Habitat event, exclaiming, “There’s a real connection between Habitat for Humanity and the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The whole notion of ‘home’ is central to so many religious traditions, to care for those who don’t have homes. … For most of our religious traditions, the places we go to worship are also homes. … [We are to help] the homeless find a home both physically and spiritually.” Dr. Greenfield further shared how his own childhood home was donated to Habitat for Humanity, in accordance with his mother’s wishes.
Helen Warner, director of public affairs for the Brampton Ontario Stake of the Church, participated in both the 2008 and 2017 Women of Faith Build events. She said it’s important for Church members to be involved in these interfaith events because “it’s an opportunity to build bridges with people of other faiths. We have much more in common than that which separates us. It’s so important that we stand together and make the world a better place.”
The current Habitat GTA site in Scarborough is the largest Habitat site in Ontario. The 50 homes now under construction will make the dream of safe and affordable homeownership a reality for many. Emily Delaney, manager of fund development for Habitat GTA, expressed gratitude to the participants by stating, “It’s great for women of differing faiths to build and unite together.”
A respect for the diverse beliefs and unique contributions of all the world’s faiths is one of the hallmarks of Mormonism. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “In an increasingly secular world and facing the attack on religious faith and religious freedom that we see all around us, it is imperative … to acknowledge that what we have in common is so far-reaching and so potentially powerful in addressing the ills of society and of the soul that the very least we can do is know and understand each other better than we do”