Faith in Canada 150: Recognizing role of faith as we prepare for 2017 celebration

Vancouver hosted the second of five Faith Alliance Gatherings, May 26.

Vancouver hosted the second of five Faith Alliance Gatherings, May 26. Peter Stockland photo.

Next year, Canada’s 150th birthday will be celebrated in many ways. Cardus, Canada’s largest Christian think tank (based in Hamilton, with a brand new office in Ottawa), wants to make sure that the contribution of faith is not overlooked in the midst of those celebrations.

Cardus has undertaken Faith in Canada 150 with this understanding: “A public square stripped of faith and its expression is one in which hope, forgiveness, grace, and mystery will wither.”

Greg Pennoyer and his Cardus teammates gathered representatives of several faiths at Creekside Community Recreation Centre May 26 for the second of five Faith Alliance Gatherings in major cities across the nation. Along with creating time for Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Protestant and Catholic Christians to get to know each other better – and featuring a useful discussion of the state of faith in Canada by Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid Institute – Pennoyer outlined the purpose and plans of Faith in Canada 150.

Greg Pennoyer hosted the Faith Alliance Gathering.

Greg Pennoyer hosted the Faith Alliance Gathering. Peter Stockland photo.

Following is his description of the initiative.

Faith is a good in our society, although you might not know it from the headlines today. We have grown forgetful of the contribution faith has made to our country, its institutions and our common life.

For more than 450 years, faith has shaped the human landscape of Canada: it has shaped how we imagine our life together, and it has given shape to a country that stands apart in a world deeply scarred by conflict, prejudice and brutality.

This is the story that Cardus, through the Faith in Canada 150 initiative, will tell.

Faith finds itself in story. The great religions of the world express themselves in the full abundance of storytelling forms: long narrative poems, personal histories, parables, proverb collections, tales from the immediate long ago. The story is the house where the truth of faith lives and can be called upon.

In the beginning, 150 years ago, when Canada began its process of Confederation, we were almost exclusively a house of Christian faith, divided into separate dwellings for Catholicism and Protestantism.

But the story isn’t so neat and tidy. There were, of course, vibrant and abundant faiths among the many First Nations people across the landmass as well. Where they were not actively suppressed, they were cast out by those going about the business of founding a 19th century nation-state.

Fr. Raymond de Souza, columnist for the National Post and editor-in-chief of Convivium (publiished by Cardus) took part in the gathering. Peter Stockland photo.

Fr. Raymond de Souza, columnist for the National Post and editor-in-chief of Convivium (publiished by Cardus) took part in the gathering. Peter Stockland photo.

Faith in Canada 150 seeks to reframe the narrative, not with reproach, but by reconnecting Canadians with the reality that faith is still alive today as an energetic, positive source of celebration. As the old spiritual has it, there is a balm in Gilead. Renewal, revitalization and uplift can be found in refreshing the story of faith in Canada.

In order to galvanize such a broad public conversation, and as a way to live out our commitments to faith communities across Canada, Cardus is planning a set of compelling initiatives that will enable Canadians to reengage stories of faith.

These events, both local and national in scope and designed for the general public as well as specific groups, will centre on five program areas: events, publishing, research, media and the web.

Participants in the Faith Alliance Gathering. Peter Stockland photo.

Participants in the Faith Alliance Gathering. Peter Stockland photo.

They will feature public celebrations in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, and they will invest heavily in the intellectual and cultural foundations of Canadian society, with endeavours such as a photography exhibition, a new major Canadian poetry prize and a national conference that gathers Canada’s greatest minds to explore religion in our common life.

At the end of Canada’s sesquicentennial year, Faith in Canada 150 will have acted as a vital source of robust, eloquent, engaging conversation about the importance of the sacred, the transcendent, the religious in the life of our country.

This article first appeared in Comment, a publication of Cardus, and is re-posted by permission.

Faith in Canada 150 is making five commitments and undertaking six initiatives:

In undertaking this adventure, we offer five commitments:

  1. We will celebrate the role of faith in the formation of our rich and diverse culture.
  2. We will remind Canadians of the contributions religion has made to our common life.
  3. We will tell stories from our past that resonate through our present and toward our future.
  4. We will encourage and inspire the diverse communities of faith to greater participation in and celebration of Canadian life.
  5. We will help to build a network of leaders across private, public, religious and secular institutions who recognize and seek to nurture the place of faith in our life together.

The development of our initiatives are guided by the principles of our five commitments of undertaking the Faith in Canada 150 project:

1. Thread of 1000 Stories We’re collecting 1000 stories of faith from now to the end of 2017. What do you celebrate? What is unique about your community? We want to hear your story!

2. Faith Alliance 150 Network Our Faith Alliance 150 Network will be one of Canada’s broadest interfaith networks to date. We hope to inspire, equip and mobilize faith communities, businesses and organizations across Canada to join the 2017 celebrations.

3. Millennial Network The next generation of Canadian leaders need to be included in Canada’s anniversary. Why? Because they’re the ones shaping the next 150 years of Canadian history. Born between 1980 and 2000? Join our network!

4. Events We have lots planned­­ from gallery exhibits to academic talks, our events vary widely and span from coast-to-coast. We look forward to meeting you right in your own province as we host events all across the country.

5. Research Leading academics, researchers and practitioners are convening to expand Canada’s information resources on religious pluralism in our public square. Our Spirited Citizenship research will contribute to public thought on Canada’s climate for freedom of religion and more.

6. Future Initiatives We have more we want to do, but we need your help! See our Future Initiatives page for fund-dependant projects that we’re excited about.

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