Cooking, Faith and Community Building in Victoria

Do not rub your eyes after chopping a bunch of green chilli peppers.  For me, this learning opportunity took place at a recent cooking class and cultural event that I attended, hosted by the Hindu faith community.  Not only did I learn a better way to work with chillies (rub your hands with cooking oil first it makes for more effective hand washing afterwards; i.e., chillies wash off), I also learned how incredibly welcoming people can be to others, unlike them.  It was an awesome event!

The Interfaith Bridging Project

The Hindu event, which included the cooking class, the meal that followed, and an orientation to Hindu spiritual practices, is all part of an Interfaith Bridging Project.  The Project is being coordinated by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), in partnership with the Victoria Multifaith Society (MFS) and the South Island Dispute Resolution Centre (SIDRC).  This week I met with the very smart and generous Kathleen Bellamano, Executive Director of SIDRC, to learn more about the project.  In this brief video clip, Kathleen shares the essence of the project

(video not displaying? click here)

In the video, Kathleen provides insights into:

  • the diverse activities incorporated into the inter-faith project
  • the nature of the community partnership
  • the evolving role of the SIDRC in the project
  • why the partnerships worked on a collaborative level
  • her own, personal takeaways from the project

The Interfaith Bridging Project is a super example of connecting diverse peoples, their gifts, stories all to build a stronger, healthier place to live.

The Project:

  • brings together 8 different faith communities
  • builds on the sustained dialogue model
  • emerged from stage to stage
  • provides opportunity for outreach, meeting people where they’re at
  • was structured to give each faith community autonomy in how they shared their gifts and celebrated their cultural traditions, with the broader community
  • fostered new connections (beyond the project activities)
  • builds community collaboration, empathy and compassion

The beauty and power of diversity

It’s frequently at the edges of things that we learn most about the middle ice and steam can reveal more about the nature of water than water alone ever could. (Walter Murch, film editor) When we gather with those who are different, share our stories and experiences, we give ourselves the opportunity to discover our common bonds.  And, we gain confidence for converging on a future that works for all of us.  This is why I think the Interfaith Bridging Project is so important.

Learn more

Check out the ICA website for upcoming events associated with the Interfaith Bridging Project.  Read my interview with ICA’s Steven Baileys, community connector, and ICA lead for the Bridging Project.  ICA are doing some impressive, creative, connective work in my community.

And what can we learn from you?  What’s your experience with building bridges, in your community?  Leave a comment.

Photos courtesy of Kat Bellamano, Steven Baileys and Jodi Williams

cooking class @ Hindu temple – Feb 2012

inter-faith bridging dialogue group


Ben & Kat


  1. Aunt kate says

    Nice apron Ben! I have a matching one!
    Glad you enjoyed the class and exchange. Sounds like a worthwhile project!

  2. Thanks Katy. I don’t usually wear an apron when I’m in the kitchen… I’m glad there is a picture, for posterity sake. 🙂

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