On May 9th 2023, TNLIP held its first ever Faith Leaders Networking Event at the Montecassino Convention Centre in North York. This event was created to connect faith leaders in the North York community, all of whom do wonderful work supporting the newcomer community. The faith community plays a vital role to support the immigrant population of Toronto. This event provided a platform for faith leaders to network, support each other, collaborate, promote collective well-being for newcomers, and strengthen the partnerships between faith groups and newcomer settlement service providers. Inter-faith community leaders were able to connect with each other to discuss the most pressing issues facing the newcomer community as well as innovative solutions to help newcomers settle successfully to implement as a community.
The first discussion of this event engaged faith leaders to discuss how they are supporting newcomers in their faith communities and beyond. Knowledge was exchanged between faith leaders to increase awareness of what support is provided to newcomers across the various faith communities in North York. The second discussion period facilitated conversations on the pressing challenges that newcomers are facing. Leaders were asked to share challenges that they saw in their faith community when serving newcomers during their settlement process. Unique challenges were discussed, including barriers to transportation, language barriers, poverty, burnout and exhaustion, and a loss of sense of identity. Housing, employment barriers, and food security were also discussed. Faith communities needing the support of the government and other newcomer service providers was also frequently mentioned. There was extremely valuable information shared among the group and a communal sense of working together to help others was showcased at the event. A sense of collective belonging was present in the room.
The faith leaders networking event showcased the value of inter-cultural work. It was a first step to build a community collective platform for faith leaders to network and collaborate, and there are hopes to run events like this more regularly in the future. The goal is for faith communities to keep working together so that newcomers of any faith can access resources and connect with any faith communities, regardless of which faith they belong to. Faith leaders cooperatively decided that the hand for help and support is available to all.