TORONTO (CCN) — Think-tank heavyweight Cardus is calling on Canadians to bring religion back into the public square as the nation prepares to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
“Faith is still a dominant feature in the lives of many Canadians and it certainly has been throughout Canadian history so . . . to celebrate 150 years of Confederation that story has to be told,” said Andrew Bennett, a Cardus senior fellow and chair of the Cabinet of Canadians, a group of academic, religious and business leaders put together to lead the faith discussion.
“To not talk about religious faith when we speak about Canadian history is to have a very serious blind spot. Millions of Canadians have lived and breathed and built this country with a key eye to their religious faith.”
To assist those looking to swap stories about their faith, Cardus put together a series of initiatives, each with a specific target audience, grouped under an umbrella project called Faith in Canada 150.
In November, Bennett, Canada’s former Ambassador of Religious Freedom, launched the youth-driven arm of Faith in Canada 150.
The event drew about 60 youth, aged 19 to 35, who heard from four guest speakers: a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim and a Baha’i.
Dubbed the Millennial Network, Bennett said the event sought to change perceptions about religion’s place in society.
“Many of us have convinced ourselves that religious expression is a private matter,” said Bennett. “It is important for those of us who are faithful to recognize that we do have a place in the public square. Religious expression is not just a private matter.”
He added that in order to have “a genuinely diverse society we need to give suitable space in the public square for religious expression and for people to engage in with their faith.”
Faith in Canada 150 is being fuelled by private donations with no direct funding from the federal government’s Canada 150 program, said Cardus spokesperson Daniel Proussalidis. The government has reportedly earmarked $500 million for celebrations and community improvements across the country.
Another of the Cardus projects is Thread of 1,000 Stories, a platform for faithful of all ages to share stories about religion’s role and influence in their life.
“It is important to have faith as a prominent player with the public life of this country,” said Bennett. “People of faith, on a day-to-day basis, are involved in building the common life of this country.”
Jean Vanier, who worked with Cardus in developing the Faith in Canada 150 initiative, sees the project as an extension of Canada’s role to be a model for the rest of the world.
“Canada has a mission . . . to cultivating this brotherly-sisterly love amongst every person,” said Vanier, who founded L’Arche for adults with intellectual disabilities in 1964. “Canada is not just a place of peace, it is a source of peace and a vision of peace for the world.”
Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, one of 40 members of the Cabinet of Canadians, praised Cardus for capitalizing on Canada’s 150 birthday as a means to celebrate faith and religious diversity.
“I am delighted that Cardus has initiated the Faith in Canada 150 project,” he said. “As we celebrate this milestone in Canada’s history it is an appropriate time to highlight and celebrate the role of faith as a cornerstone for so many Canadians.”
The initiative offers an opportunity to “reflect on the role of faith in our country,” while celebrating “the simple and extraordinary contributions made every day from coast to coast” by the nation’s faithful.
For more information, visit http://www.faithincanada150.ca