‘It wasn’t just a look’

Stares cause lo­cal woman dis­com­fort at Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony

The Compass - - NEWS - ED­U­CA­TION Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

At pub­lic events across New­found­land and Labrador, it’s not un­com­mon for a priest, pas­tor or other re­li­gious leader to open with a prayer.

“Let’s bow our heads pray,” they might say.

Those with­out re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tions might still par­tic­i­pate in the event, but they don’t pray along with the rest in at­ten­dance.

That is the case for An­drea, a mom in her 30s from Har­bour Grace, who hes­i­tantly refers to her­self as an athe­ist.

Her young child is be­ing raised to know and understand dif­fer­ent re­li­gions, but An­drea and her hus­band Nate are not teach­ing her that there is one she needs to fol­low. And they feel it is their right to do so.

Un­til re­cently, it has never been an is­sue for the fam­ily. They don’t tell peo­ple they don’t prac­tice re­li­gion and no one has

and made a big deal out of it when they find out.

But on Re­mem­brance Day this year, An­drea was put in an un­com­fort­able po­si­tion, she told The Com­pass.

Un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion

When the cer­e­mony be­gan, a lo­cal min­is­ter said a prayer. An­drea did not bow her head or fold her hands, but stood si­lently while the prayer was tak­ing place. She could sense some­one look­ing at her, and in­stinc­tively glanced over at two women — one in her 40s and an­other in her 60s. They were look­ing straight at her.

“They looked up to see who wasn’t pray­ing,” An­drea said, not­ing it wasn’t just a look. She felt they were sham­ing her for not par­tak­ing in the prayer.

Pray­ing doesn’t of­fend An­drea or her fam­ily. They grew up with Chris­tian be­liefs. And nei­ther has com­plained about the use of prayer at pub­lic events be­fore. But they are start­ing to feel like they’re be­ing dis­re­spected.

“Ev­ery Re­mem­brance Day is a big deal to us,” she ex­plained. “Nate is for­mer mil­i­tary. We’ve lost friends who were mil­i­tary. It’s a life­style.”

On a day when Canada re­mem­bers those fallen in ser­vice, all An­drea could think about was those four eyes on her.

“I felt like say­ing, ‘We re­spect your re­li­gious ideals, but it doesn’t work the other way?’”

When oth­ers start pass­ing judge­ment on one’s be­liefs, An­drea gets up­set.


Af­ter shar­ing her story on­line, An­drea re­ceived many words of sup­port, with some con­firm­ing they’ve had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences.

An­drea ad­mit­ted it’s hard for peo­ple to say they don’t be­lieve in a higher power, an Al­lah or a God, es­pe­cially in New­found­land, which is pre­dom­i­nantly Chris­tian. Out of fear of be­ing judged, ha­rassed or crit­i­cized, An­drea and Nate, and many of their friends, also don’t openly tell peo­ple they don’t prac­tice re­li­gion.

The 2011 cen­sus says over 31,000 peo­ple in our prov­ince re- ported to have no re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion, up from al­most 13,000 10 years ear­lier. Over 472,000 con­sid­ered them­selves Chris­tians in 2011, with 493,000 in 2001.

In the mid-1990s, schools in the prov­ince were amal­ga­mated, re­mov­ing the Catholic school sys­tem. Since then there has not been prayer in schools. Some com­mu­ni­ties still host events where a min­is­ter will say grace be­fore a meal or a rev­erend will bless some­one or some­thing in at­ten­dance.

“They took it out of schools for a rea­son,” An­drea noted. “Why it is still at pub­lic events? Shouldn’t ev­ery­one feel wel­come?”

She felt now was the time to bring it to the fore­front, but also wants to make sug­ges­tions for com­mu­ni­ties that still have a prayer at pub­lic cer­e­monies.

“Some­times it’s very un­com­fort­able stand­ing with a preacher at an event,” she said. “A nice speech or a poem would have been fine, in­stead of bow your head and pray.”


There was a large crowd on hand for the Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony in Har­bour Grace this year. • Bac­calieu Trail SPCA will hold an an­nual gen­eral meet­ing at 7 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Dec 2 at the Keyin Col­lege Dog Groom­ing Class­room on Ade­laide Street, Car­bon­ear. • The In­de­pen­dent Liv­ing Re­source Cen­tre is hold­ing an in­for­ma­tion fair at Col­lege of the North At­lantic’s Car­bon­ear cam­pus on Dec. 3, whic is also the In­ter­na­tional Day for Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties. The event will run from 1-4 p.m. For more in­for­ma­tion email ryan­cooper@il­r­cnl.ca. • Sun­day night ser­vices at the Fam­ily Wor­ship Cen­tre in Har­bour Grace will be­gin at 6:30 p.m. in­stead of 7 p.m. start­ing Dec. 6. For more in­for­ma­tion call 596-5426. • The 6th An­nual Bac­calieu Trail SPCA Christ­mas Sale is be­ing held Dec. 5 at the Knights of Colum­bus in Car­bon­ear start­ing at 10 a.m. En­try for kids is free. A one stop shop­ping event for ev­ery­one on your list. Can­teen ser­vices are avail­able. To rent a ta­ble for this event or for more in­for­ma­tion, please email bt­spca@hot­mail.com.

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