22 March 2021

Elyse Brazel Selected for the 2021 Interfaith Innovation Fellowship

JPII Leader Elyse Brazel (Cohort VIII), has been selected for the Interfaith Innovation Fellowship with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in Chicago.

Back in 2009-2010, Elyse was part of the Faiths Act Fellowship, a joint interfaith program between the IFYC and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. During that whole year “we focused on interreligious community building through social action,” she recalls. More than ten years later Elyse is working on a project with a Jewish partner from Canada, Danny Richmond, who was also a Faiths Act Fellow in her same cohort. Their proposal has been accepted for the Interfaith Innovative Fellowship which aims at fostering innovative ideas for social change centered on interfaith cooperation.

“During our training process for the Faiths Act Fellowship, we listened to Eboo Patel (the founder of IFYC) talking about all the American interreligious history and some of the faith heroes that come out of America that do interfaith social justice work. Danny and I realized then that in Canada we didn’t have any of that faith history collected,” she says explaining how the idea of this project came to their mind long ago. “It’s not that interreligious engagement doesn’t exist in Canada’s history, it’s just not recorded. Culturally speaking, Canadians don’t talk about religion, it’s a big taboo and this makes it difficult to have these conversations,” she continues.

“But the stories we privilege from history and the stories left untold both shape our present reality. Canada’s problematic historical narrative is dominated by stories of white Christian men, French and English settlers who sailed across the ocean to conquer a vast empty wilderness that is now Canada.” Leaving this narrative unchallenged can lead to negative assumptions that feed racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism and xenophobia.

Elyse explains introducing her project: “We would like to develop a dynamic community-generated online timeline/map and platform, AnOTHER Story, where different religious communities on Turtle Island can share their histories, faith heroes, and lived experiences.” This website would be used as a resource for educators and religious leaders to have more complex and nuanced conversations about Canada’s shared history, and the contributions of various faith communities to Canadian identity.

We are really proud of Elyse’s work, we wish her good luck and we look forward to reading more about this project!