In the summer of 2019, people from a dozen different faith traditions sat together at a table to create a calendar together. This collaborative act felt special in a time where our communities sit in silos, and people build walls separating themselves from others. In this room, at this table, each of these people shared in the power of vulnerability when they each shared their ideas, concerns, and fears with people who were barely more than acquaintances.
This project was inspired by the inaugural Cincinnati Festival of Faiths held June 24th, 2018, on the campus of Xavier University. That amazing event, which attracted 25 faith communities representing 13 world religions, was the most inclusive gathering of faith traditions ever assembled in the region’s history. Within days of that historic event, ideas for more multi-faith learning and experiences emerged, among them the idea of producing a multi-faith calendar. The purpose and hope of the calendar is that people of different faith traditions, or without a faith tradition, might learn more about one another. We all hold the hope that we could create a tool to help open the eyes of young people who could understand one another and break down those silos that segregate our world.
Our creation is a calendar. However, the value comes from the layers of information. The first layer simply represents a month, with holidays of our traditions placed besides one another. A hovering mouse uncovers a description of that holiday and the faith tradition it comes from. A click uncovers more detail, with external links chosen by members of the faith tradition this holiday comes from, ensuring insider insight into the practices and observances. Additionally, there are some programs so that educators can use this tool in their classrooms.
Putting this together was not so straightforward. Although each of us approached the table with open hearts, we still needed to do the hard work of listening to one another and understanding perspectives we had never encountered. We approached problems of how to ensure representation of the diversity of faith traditions in Cincinnati, as well as how to express the nuance of diversity within each tradition. We tried to consider the audience, and acknowledged that although we live in a Christian majority nation, many immigrant communities may still need an understanding of Christian traditions. Our discussions touched on what are the differences between an ethnic observance and religious holiday, and how much overlap should we include. And above all, we felt the tension of trying to put holidays of many different traditions on the Gregorian calendar, which comes from Christianity.
In the end, we did our best to resolve these questions together with the resources at hand. We acknowledge that we will never truly be able to capture the diverse practices of each faith tradition or what they symbolize to the people who observe these special days. This is the first iteration of this project that we hope will evolve over the years. We are still actively seeking information, especially from groups that were not represented in our first attempt. Regardless, we hope that what we tried to create will begin the work of informing one another of our traditions. We also encourage all those who use this resource to become partners in its creation through constructive feedback. This is a first step, and we leave you with an open invitation to help us grow and make this complete.
Calendar Project Co-Chairs: James Buchanan, Umama Alam, Becca Diamond