Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 18, 2005
Social Justice Institute returns
Organizers want to re-evaluate the state of the world - globally, nationally, locally
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Social Justice Institute, a long-standing tradition in social justice circles, is coming back after a long rest.
The institute experienced a hiatus in the mid-1990s, returned three years ago for a year and is now back again with a new format. This time the event will address social issues around Alberta's centennial, which organizers believe offers an opportunity to evaluate the state of the world-globally, nationally and locally.
New Century, New Hope: Biblical Values for Renewing the World is the institute's overall theme. It'll be held May 12 to 14 at Newman Theological College, 15611 St. Albert Trail.
"The centennial was something that is happening this year and we thought we should address some issues around it," said Tim Hartnagel, dean of theology at St. Joseph's University College and chair of the 10-member ecumenical committee organizing the institute.
"(The idea) is to reflect on the current state of the province and to bring biblical values to bear upon the direction in which the province seems to be going and in light of all of that hopefully make some suggestions about alternative visions of the future for Alberta."
As Hartnagel sees it, Alberta is experiencing a rapid population and economic growth, which brings a variety of different issues to the forum. One of these issues is the growing inequality.
"There is certainly a segment of the Alberta population that is benefitting very much from the economic growth and affluence of the province but there is certainly another large segment that is not benefitting from that and in fact has suffered a lot from it," he said.
"We only need to begin to think about problems about homeless and affordable housing issues in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, the rise in child poverty and the whole focus on energy and the extraction of energy. We think it's time to pause and perhaps look at some alternative ways of developing this province over the course of the next few years."
The institute will help participants to reflect on these ways in light of biblical values, Hartnagel said. "And I think we very deliberately picked the theme of new century new hope; that is to say we do see in Scripture and in the social teaching of the churches a hope for the future if people are willing to consider it and to change direction."
Apart from keynote addresses on biblical values, ecojustice and justice and peace, the institute will offer several parallel workshops on topics like Canadian-U.S. relations, indigenous peoples, energy issues and refugee and immigration issues.
Speakers and workshop animators include Lutheran Bishop Raymond Schulz, who will lead a workshop called Biblical Roots for Guerrillas, Bob McKeon of Newman Theological College who will give a workshop called Moving from Word to Action in the Parish and Diana Gibson of the Parkland Institute will give a workshop called Squandering our Future: Alberta's Oil and Gas Giveaway.
"I think there is a sense among some of us that it's important to keep these issues in front of people and particularly to keep the social message of the Gospel there for people to be aware of," Hartnagel said.
May 12 will be the institute's youth day, which means some workshops are earmarked for high school students. Newman's Littlemore Program is currently promoting the institute among Catholic high schools.
"We want to bring a Christian perspective to our centennial," said Holy Cross Sister Madeleine Cloutier, another member of the institute's organizing committee.
"We are all concerned about the state of the world. We need to look at what are we doing to save the earth. That's one of my big concerns. Every little act that I do will help save the planet and if I save the planet I save the future generations and myself."
The Edmonton archdiocesan Social Justice Commission started the institute in 1980, but suspended it in the mid-1990s due to low attendance. It was revived for a year in 2002 with an attendance of 75 people.
Organizers are now hoping for at least 100 participants to make the event viable. Whether the institute will become an annual event once again is still a mystery.
"We haven't talked about that at all," Hartnagel said. "I guess it depends on how much interest there is out there in looking at these kinds of issues."
Among those sponsoring this year's institute are members of the Alberta Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Basilian Fathers of Edmonton, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian Religious Conference and the United Church of Canada.
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