What Pope Francis Can Teach Us About Inclusivity at Events

By Hayley Panagakis, May 2, 2016

In the wake of the world’s anti-refugee response to the terrorist attacks in Brussels that killed 35 people in March, Pope Francis responded with an act of inclusivity we can all learn from in our walks of faith: He washed and kissed the feet of 12 immigrants who were as diverse as the world we live in. The foot-washing ritual, occurring every Holy Thursday and modeled after Jesus’ decision to wash the feet of his 12 apostles before his crucifixion, has never before included Muslims, Hindus or women.

The pontiff used the broad gesture as a symbol of peace during a time inundated with fear, only two days after the Brussels attacks. “All of us together: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals… all brothers and children of the same God,” says the pope. “We want to live together in peace.”

The pope sheds light on love, and that’s something we could all use a bit more of.

What does this mean for planners? While it’s uncommon for Muslims to try to attend a Christian conference (or vice versa), there’s something to be said about inclusivity in meetings—whether that’s finding ways to make millennials feel welcome within your denomination, or branching out to the community with interfaith efforts.

For the Muslim planner, this may mean being patient with people who have given into Islamophobia. For example, in January 2015, thousands of protestors held U.S. flags and anti-Muslim signs outside a Muslim conference in Garland, Texas. However, we can hope Christians will follow the lead of Pope Francis. You can call him a game changer, but I say he’s a man of God exemplifying the WWJD expression that most of us Christians try to live by. The pope sheds light on love, and that’s something we could all use a bit more of.

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