Lomeharshan, Toronto, Ontario
Originally from Guyana, Lomeharshan came to Canada three years ago to study International Development and Environmental Science at the University of Toronto. Following the completion of his studies, he plans to work in the field of social and economic development in the Caribbean.
“I think it’s really important to work for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination to assist with the building of unity among the races, religions and nations of the world.
“As I grew up in Guyana, I had often witnessed opposition between followers of different religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. But I had appreciation for all religions, for all people.
“I started looking for answers to my questions. By accident, I heard about the Bahá’í Faith. After reading about it I had a sense of connection. It talked about the unity of all people, oneness of all religions, elimination of prejudice, equality between men and women, and so on. It appealed to me, and I later joined the Bahá’í community.
“Being a Bahá’í, I believe in the importance of service to my community. Getting involved in social action is something vital for me because I want to contribute to changing the world systems that are unjust, full of greed and inequality. I also see my social involvement as part of a twofold moral purpose for the individual: trying to become a better person is intimately connected to helping society become better.
“I found being conscious of my actions is helpful because you can observe the effects of your actions and their impact on the people around you. I really like that the Baha’i Faith encourages youth to be at the forefront of the development of the community and recognizes the role youth have in the transformation of the world.
“At the University of Toronto, I am a member of the Bahá’í Association. To help with the elimination of prejudice and discrimination on campus, we decided to organize a space where people from all sorts of different backgrounds could come together and exchange their understanding and knowledge on a variety of topics. By creating this space called Open Dialogue, we hoped that students would learn from each other. The Bahá’í Association invited all the faith-based groups – including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs – as well as non-faith groups on campus. Every week, we facilitate a discussion on themes such as oppression, gender equality, sexuality, truth, science and religion, etc. These topics are picked by a specific group or by the entire attendance. This event helped create deep and long-lasting friendship among participants.
“The session on the interaction between science and religion was particularly popular. The room was packed, and people had to sit of the floor. It was exciting to see how religious and secular society came to an understanding that religion and science cannot be separated, that these two complement each other.
“This initiative has had an impact on the life on campus. People are more open to not only listen to but understand and appreciate each other’s differences. All of us learn about each other’s realities. Students feel less judged by others. I feel that a lot of the prejudices based on sheer assumptions have been broken down.
“For instance, it is now common on our campus that atheists invite religious people to the events they host and vice versa; similarly, representatives of different religions come together and engage in meaningful conversations. I was so glad to see these changes.”