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Journey to Justice

By Joe Gunn

04/01/2015
Tom Ryan, CSP
Justice Tour 2015 coming to Saskatoon and Winnipeg

Does our faith influence how we live out our political values? Do the urgings of our faith communities help determine how we read the news, how we shop, and how we live our lives? More specifically, when we enter the polling booth, do we know and accept the teachings of our faith so that they influence where we finally decide to mark that “x”?

Modern North Americans seem blessed with an incredible wealth of moral subjectivity and agency. We endeavour to develop an awareness of self, and value the strength to act with purpose, based on the power of self-realization. According to Christian ethicist Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, this fact can hinder us, the planetary “over-consumers,” from responding to the “structural sin” that creates such great inequality and ecological damage in our world. Moral formation today, she holds, depends on the development of “critical vision” to see structural sin in the broader society and economy surrounding us, so that Christian communities “embody neighbour-love as an economic-ecological vocation, as well as an interpersonal one.”

A new initiative of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), which includes the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, might help Canadians deepen that realization.

The 25 members of the CCC believe Psalm 24 which sings that, “the earth is the Lord’s and all that’s in it, the world, and those who live in it.” Thus, our work of service toward social and environmental justice is a reflection of our love of God. Justice Tour 2015 has been designed to encourage our faith communities to listen, learn, reflect and act throughout the year, to manifest our faith in and love of God, God’s creation, and all God’s creatures.

The Justice Tour focuses on the CCC’s two priority issues: climate justice and ending poverty in Canada. In 2011 important interfaith statements were issued on both these themes, yet most people in the pews were never made aware of their content. Citizens for Public Justice, an affiliate member of the CCC, has used these statements in various educational and awareness-raising opportunities, including two booklets of reflections and action suggestions, to encourage the work of the churches and engage faith communities in further action. These two priority issues for the CCC’s Commission on Justice and Peace are especially strategic this year with the civic engagement that will occur during the federal election, and because of two key international events: the UN climate conference in Paris (December), and the UN General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals (September). For Catholics, the announcement that Pope Francis will speak on Sept. 25 at the UN may give these issues even greater weight.

In April and May a delegation of leaders will be hosted by ecumenical committees in eight cities across Canada to a) share information about poverty in Canada and climate justice; b) listen to reflections on regional realities that inform action plans for local engagement and advocacy, and c) present the opportunity for a Church Leaders’ Pastoral Statement to be developed through this process.

The travelling church leaders include Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Canada, Rev. Willard Metzger, executive director of Mennonite Church Canada, and Rev. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches.

Drawing on what is learned during the listening tour, a Church Leaders’ Pastoral Statement on Climate Change and Poverty in Canada will be developed and shared this summer for study and response from church constituencies, candidates for political office and the public. Locally led engagement activities will follow the statement, resulting in various local engagement and advocacy plans, such as meetings with candidates, reflections/prayers/hymns and liturgical activities, etc. Canadian church leaders may participate in, and report back from the UN meetings with international faith-based partners.

The Justice Tour 2015 initiative should allow more people to be aware of Christian concern for the pressing concerns of climate change and poverty, while encouraging and facilitating action in local faith communities. You are warmly invited to get involved, and engage your own faith community in this ongoing project.

This delegation will visit Saskatoon on Wed., April 15, and you are warmly welcomed to join them at the Alice Turner Library, 110 Nelson Rd. at 7 p.m. (For more information, contact Myron Rogal at 306-659-5841 or vocations@saskatoonrcdiocese.com). In Winnipeg, on the evening of Thursday, April 16, you can meet the delegation at 7 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 181 Austin St. (or for more information contact Paul Gehrs at 204-984-9156, or pgehrs@elcic.ca ).

Gunn is the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, www.cpj.ca, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa focused on ecological justice, refugee rights and poverty elimination.