Faith makes way into nation’s 150th
Program gets strong emotional, financial support from Calgarians
Faith seemed to be a missing ingredient among the various cross-Canada initiatives aimed at celebrating this country’s 150th birthday.
That’s why a national think-tank stepped in to fill that breach, by putting together a multi-faith alliance of religious groups and individuals to look at the past, present and future of faith in Canada.
Some of the strongest support and involvement, both from an emotional and financial standpoint, has come from Calgary.
Cardus, a privately funded Christian-influenced group that promotes debate on the social architecture of the country and how that is maintained and built, has reached out to other religions across the country to put together a multi-faith program called Faith in Canada 150.
The group did some polling and research last year and discovered that although religion is a major component of the history of the country, it was in danger of being ignored among all the more secular celebrations planned to mark Canada’s past century and a half.
“There was an indication that this might be told without the story of faith and I don’t mean just the Christian faith, though that is a significant part, but also the spirituality of indigenous people, the faith of people who have come to this land and served over the last 200 years who are not Christian, from Jews to Muslims and beyond,” said Greg Pennoyer, Program Director of Faith in Canada 150.
“You cannot express the history of Canada without telling the history of faith,” he says.
How can you tell the story of Montreal without telling the story of the Jews or of Toronto without telling the story of the Presbyterians or Surrey without the Sikhs or the settling of the West without the story of the Ukrainian orthodox?
“These stories are ingrained. Faith shapes how we see our neighbour and how we see ourselves and community and how we live together in this country,” he adds.
To recognize and appreciate such history and its present effect on how Canadians live, Cardus launched several initiatives.
A faith alliance network consisting of hundreds of Canadian faith leaders was established. Cardus is hoping the number of Canadians directly involved will number as many as 500 by the end of the year. It is also expected this alliance, which includes several Calgary religious leaders, will continue to meet and tackle issues long after the celebrations of 2017 are complete.
In addition, 100 Canadians who are part of the millennial genera- tion will gather in Ottawa this summer to explore the question of how we all can live together with such distinctive differences of faith.
“So much of the secular world is afraid of faith in many ways so they park us in a box and put us all together with the sense that no one faith is more true than another,” says Pennoyer.
“But when you talk to individuals of faith, they believe their faith is the true faith. So, in the midst of these devotions, how do we live
What are the things that draw us together, that move beyond tolerance and allow us to live as neighbours and friends?
together, how do we find the common ground. How does a devout Muslim live next door to a devout Jew who lives next door to a devout Christian?
“What are the things that draw us together, that move beyond tolerance and actually allow us to live as neighbours and friends?” he adds.
A former journalist with the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun, Peter Stockland, is leading another Faith 150 initiative, by putting together the largest collection of stories of faith in everyday life.
Once complete the so-called Thread of 1000 Stories will be unique in Canada.
The Faith in Canada 150 project is going ahead without any government funding; its $2-million budget is being raised through individual donations.
To date, donations stand at $1.5 million. Albertans, especially those from Calgary, have been especially supportive.
“We have received no government funding whatsoever — not because we didn’t hope for it, but we found that both corporations and governments have an apprehension towards religion,” says Pennoyer.
“Calgary has simply been one of the most generous in spirit and also generous in very practical ways by helping us raise the $2 million we need.
“Some of the city’s major religious leaders from rabbis to imams to leaders within the Mormon community are very actively involved,” he says.
“The spring and fall workshops we held in the city last year were very well attended and the broad community of faith in Calgary is very involved.”