Making inclusivity the standard
SAIT's chaplains (from left to right) Daniel Love of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Rev. Tim Nethercott from the United Church, Imam Fayaz Tilly of the Sunni Muslim religion, Father Sajo Jacob of the Roman Catholic faith and Art Kung of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
While many post-secondary institutions across Canada have programs dedicated to faith and spirituality, SAIT's Interfaith Centre is unique in many ways.
Together, the Interfaith Centre, its chaplains, the recently-renovated prayer space and a new Religious Accommodation policy are moving the bar higher than simply promoting tolerance towards a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.
Building a sense of community
The five dedicated and experienced chaplains are the backbone of the centre — Daniel Love of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Art Kung of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, Father Sajo Jacob of the Roman Catholic faith, Imam Fayaz Tilly of the Sunni Muslim religion and Rev. Tim Nethercott from the United Church.
The chaplains work at SAIT on a volunteer basis, loaned to the institution by their separate associations, and in true SAIT fashion, the chaplains aren't just colleagues, they're friends.
"On-campus, the chaplains work together to make sure the student always comes first — whatever that student's needs may be," says Mark Wall, Academic Chair of Student Retention.
Needs may include helping a student feel part of a community, providing spiritual guidance, or answering questions about religion, faith or spirituality.
"The chaplains model a deep appreciation for all beliefs, not just the belief they represent," says Wall. "They're happy to point students towards experts and resources, or towards other faiths and spiritual followings if that's what the student requests."
The sense of community built by SAIT's Interfaith Centre and its chaplains comes from a number of activities, including daily prayer sessions, availability of dedicated space for individual prayers, meditation or faith learning, and group activities like drumming sessions with African and Indigenous drums, weekly Catholic Mass and contemporary Christian worship meetings.
Protecting our values
In a move to stand behind SAIT's values for religious and spiritual inclusivity, an institutional policy has been created to ensure students are able to obtain religious accommodation in their courses for religious observances.
The Religious Accommodation policy was written by the Policy sub-committee representing a number of different groups institution-wide and using extensive stakeholder and community feedback to guide their work.
What's in store for the future of the Interfaith Centre?
After receiving a face lift to existing space and taking on a second prayer space, Wall says the centre is looking forward to further supporting SAIT students and their religious and spiritual needs.
Everyone is invited to check out the current Daily Prayers schedule, the Interfaith Centre page for chaplain contact information, or come by for a visit at the Interfaith Centre in MB227 or the meditation rooms in MB314 and MC311, Stan Grad Centre.
Read more about SAIT chaplain, alumnus and generally great-guy Art Kung in his #SAITstory.