Opinion: Lack of controversy around prayer room refreshing
December 14, 2010 by Matthew DiMera
Kwantlen’s introduction of a dedicated prayer and meditation room earlier this semester was decidedly uncontroversial. Refreshingly so.
There were no public protests and no letters to the editors of the school papers complaining about the intrusion of religion into the public sphere.
The room was created in response to multiple requests from students and staff for a space to practise their respective faiths. Whether you chalk it up to typical Kwantlen apathy or an extremely enlightened outlook on faith and tolerance, the prayer room has continued to operate freely and without incident.
Compare that non-reaction to controversies generated about religious accommodations on other campuses across the country. Five years ago, McGill University in Montreal closed its prayer room and argued that a religious space didn’t belong at a secular university. Students responded by filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Admittedly, the Kwantlen prayer room is nothing to write home about. It’s the size of a very small office or cubicle and the bare concrete floor is reminiscent of a prison cell. Several groups on campus have expressed concern that the spartan room is not large enough for group prayers or other religious meetings with more than two or three people.
In response, university administrators have promised to look for new space as it becomes available, with the aim of eventually opening prayer rooms on all four campuses.
Conflicts between the secular and religious sectors continue to make headlines all over Canada. The questions of how far religious freedoms extend and what place religion has in the public square, or more specifically at a public university, aren’t going to be resolved anytime soon, but they are ones we should think about carefully.
Because what better place to foster a reasoned and educated discussion about faith than at a university?