Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 28, 2002
Churches prepare for G8 meeting
New ecumenical group wants Kananaskis to lead to social justice
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Canadian Christian social justice advocates are preparing to "turn the tables on globalization" at next July's meeting of world leaders in Kananaskis.
Kairos, a new coalition of Canadian churches, has launched an education and action campaign to prepare for the G8 meeting.
"The campaign is aimed at turning around the view that the Third World owes us and identifies the debts that we owe aboriginal people, the people of the South and the earth," said Jennifer Henry, the coalition's education and networking coordinator.
People can participate in the campaign by signing a prepared statement and sending a personal message on the reverse.
In their personal message people should clearly show who the creditors are, what the cost of this debt is, and how things might look if the tables were turned.
The statement, called Call to Account, can be found at many Christian churches.
"When those leaders come to the table in Kananaskis we will be watching," says a campaign pamphlet.
"We will turn to them to turn the tables of globalization; to afford all the world's people a fair share of the world's wealth, to ensure that all persons have their human rights respected and that the welfare of the Earth is secure."
The campaign is one of the first efforts of Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, a partnership under which Canadian Church-related organizations have consolidated their justice work.
The new partnership is a coalition of Canadian church agencies dedicated to promoting human rights, justice and peace, viable human development and universal solidarity.
Kairos, Greek for "a moment of transformation through faith," was established nationally last July and is currently being organized in Edmonton.
The Toronto-based partnership brings together 10 previously independent inter-Church coalitions, whose concerns and work are similar in nature.
They include the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, the Coalition for Economic Justice, the Inter-Church Committee for Human Rights in Latin America, the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees and Ten Days for Global Justice.
Members of Kairos' national executive spoke about the new partnership at Edmonton's Trinity Lutheran Church Jan. 16. Some 40 people attended the meeting. Participants agreed on the need to get the partnership going in Edmonton as soon as possible.
"Kairos is a partnership of churches and Church organizations as a voice for social justice in Canada," said Holy Cross Father Richard Renshaw, who sits on the Kairos board representing the Canadian Religious Conference.
Henry said, "The people who are part of Kairos are trying to express their own faith commitment and the collective commitment of the churches and to respond to the imperative of the Gospel to work for justice and defend the weak and the vulnerable.
"They come from different traditions but they all come to the same conclusion, which is that to be a Christian means to work for justice and that really there is no option but to take that option which is to be in solidarity with people around the world."
Kairos' goal is to "change the world," said Renshaw. "But for that to happen we first have to change people's minds and hearts, and change the structures that create inequality and injustice."
Building a coalition such as Kairos became necessary because of globalization, Henry said. "We found that increasingly the issues were interconnected so it made sense to bring the work together so that we were better positioned to make the connection between those issues."
Moreover, the groups now making up the Kairos coalition worked together in the past and came to the realization they can be more effective together, Henry pointed out.
Their Jubilee 2000 Campaign for the elimination of Third World debt led the federal government to cancel some of the debt owed to Canada by poor nations and to announce a moratorium on debt payments owed by other developing nations.
"I think this experience in the jubilee movement showed that when we come together we can do tremendous things," Henry said.
The new partnership is run by a 14-member board and a 26-member staff. Priority areas for Kairos include international human rights, global economic justice, environment and ecological justice, Canadian social development, aboriginal peoples and education. A 15-member committee is working on each priority area.
The Canadian Kairos is connected with many similar coalitions around the world and has one of the "strongest social analysis teams in Canada, perhaps in the world," noted Renshaw.
"This is an extremely strong think tank in social analysis and it has a popular base that I think is unparalleled." The priest estimates Kairos represents about three million people across Canada.
Rosanne Thede, who represents the Lutheran Evangelical Church on the organizing committee of Edmonton Kairos, predicts the coalition will be operating in Edmonton within two months. She said representatives of different churches and Church organizations already held an exploratory meeting on the issue.
"I'm very positive, very optimist because we have a very good history of working together," Thede said. "This is a continuation of the work we did together around the jubilee."
Linda Winski, representative of the archdiocesan Social Justice Commission on Edmonton Kairos, is also excited about establishing the coalition locally.
"I think it's essential that we continue working ecumenically around justice issues and I think Kairos will allow that work to be nurtured and developed," she said.
Kairos will also provide local groups with a national and international forum as well as access to its vast resources, Winski said.