CMU panel presentation puts focus on pandemic polarization
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COVID-19 pandemic health regulations, vaccinations and mask mandates have polarized Canadians, creating divides between individuals, and in communities, families and places of worship.
Finding ways to bridge those divides is the goal of “Polarization: Get over it! Stories that lead the way,” the next Face2Face conversation series presentation offered by Canadian Mennonite University.
The event, which takes place Monday at 7 p.m. at CMU, will focus on how polarization has created political divides in Manitoba — and how to overcome them.
It will feature panelists Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen (PC MLA for Steinbach), Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont (MLA for St. Boniface), NDP MLA Jamie Moses (St. Vital) and Jayme Menzies, a policy analyst for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
The four will share examples and stories of how they’ve overcome polarization in big and small ways in their personal and political lives, and how those experiences have shaped them.
“Polarization is increasingly becoming the norm in our society, in our churches, even in our families,” said Jodi Dueck-Read, who teaches conflict resolution studies at CMU and is moderator for the presentation. “It’s got to the point that people don’t know how to overcome it.”
For her, storytelling is one way to help transcend polarization.
“Telling stories helps us to understand each other better,” she said. “It gives us a chance to connect with other people and learn more about them.”
By listening to the panelists tell their stories, “We can see them not just as politicians, but as people,” she said. “We can see them not just in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives.”
Through hearing stories about the lives of others, people can develop empathy and understanding, Dueck-Read said. “It can humanize them, they aren’t just representations of a political party or their position as a politician.”
Participation by Menzies (who is Indigenous) will focus attention on the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“There is a lot we can learn Indigenous people about how to bridge that divide,” Dueck-Read said.
For CMU, the event about polarization grows out of how Mennonites have a “long history of peace-building and dealing with conflict situations,” she said, adding it is also part of the university’s commitment to promoting peace, justice and reconciliation.
The event (http://wfp.to/SS2) is free to attend and will take place in Marpeck Commons on the campus of CMU (2299 Grant Ave.). It will also be livestreamed.
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John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.