Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Reflection after the Mass Shooting in a Quebec Mosque - We are the Light

The church today is being called to be a light in a world. This light illuminates the dark, broken parts of the world. But the light also causes growth, warmth and radiance.

I attended a candlelight vigil this week after the shooting in the mosque in Quebec. It was on Dalhousie campus, run by the student Islamic society.

I went with Anne. Anne and I were surrounded by people of different races, young and old, women and men, some were wearing hijabs and some were wearing crosses, Together, Anne and I held an unlit candle. Together, we stood in solidarity with those sharing their stories…. with those who lost their lives.

Our candle was lit by the man standing next to us. It was cold and windy, so the candle went out. He lit it again, I protected it from the elements….
it worked for a short time…. and then went out.

It was HARD to keep the candle burning.

Neighbours passed the light over & over again each time the light was extinguished.

Muslims shared their flame with Christians, An African Nova Scotian lit the candle of an indigenous woman, the light spread, women to men, old to young.

We listened.
We listened to people share stories of their grief, their fear, their pain,
…. but we also watched HATE MELT away, as love and hope grew.

The divide between “us” and “them” blurred as we stood, holding our candles, unified in silence.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when we called his followers, when he calls us,
to be light in the world.

What does this mean for us? It doesn’t mean necessarily to do anything grand,
but it is our jobs to keep passing the light, even when it keeps going out!

Especially, when it keeps going out.

We can be hope for one another, in times of darkness.

We can pray for each other and the world, We can pray for healing, peace and wholeness. And we can be kind to each other, respecting our differences,
celebrating everything that brings us together.

We are called to shine light on the brokenness of the world.
We can listen to each other’s stories and share in the burdens we carry.

We are called to use our lives to mirror the hope and love that can only be found in God.


~Written by Shannon MacLean following the murder of 6 praying men in their place of prayer… “A mass shooting occurred on the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City, Canada. Six people were killed and nineteen others injured when a lone gunman opened fire just before 8:00 pm, shortly after the end of evening prayers. Fifty-three people were reported present at the time of the shooting.”

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Voting and Faith

APRIL 28TH, 2015

In a few months, Canada will be having a federal election and from my perspective, those who claim to follow Jesus as disciples need to pay attention.

More than many times in our history, this election will be critical in determining the future quality of life in Canada and in our relationship with the rest of the world. It feels like a kairos moment.

 I’m really concerned for all those who will continue after I am gone and indeed, for God’s creation itself if we continue on the same path we have been going.

Or…. at least it seems that way to someone wanting more and more to make a difference in God’s social evolution project that Christians call “the Kingdom of God”.

What I would like to do is to start a discussion about how people decide to vote and if their religious faith has any relevance to that decision.

To begin with, I want to just list some of the ways I have observed over the years:
1.      People decide not to vote because they are disgusted with the whole process and cynical about any kind of positive change.
2.   People vote against the party in power because they are unhappy with decisions, corruption, lies and the sense of entitlement incumbents often have.
3.    People vote for the local candidate that impresses them the most. Sometimes it is from public debates and their eleoquence; More often, I think, it is intuitive about integrity, trust, or even something as superficial as hair style and smile.
4.    People vote for the leader of the party with the greatest charisma that gives them hope.
5.    People vote ideologically- left, right or centre- based on stated party commitments and platforms.
6.   People vote the way others in the family have voted( parents) or with their current partner so as to not cancel each otherout.
7.    People vote for patronage reasons- to secure favors or appointments
8.    People vote for election goodies; the promises made during or leading up to a campaign.
9.   People vote for those they think will win based on polling, the number of signs on lawns, or media reports to ensure their MP is in the governing party.
10.                        People vote strategically, based on polling, in order to keep the party they don’t want to win from forming a government through vote splitting.
11.  People vote for the party whose values most closely represent theirs. Sometimes these values are shaped by religion.
12.                        People vote according to their stand on a particular issue- ( legalizing marijuana, government surveillance, abortion or same sex marriage, gun registration, elect or abolish the senate, environmental concerns)
So…. My first question is
a)                            Can you think of other ways that people use to decide how they vote?

My second question is

b)                          Can the church or faith give us any help in deciding which of the above reasons we should favour?

The United Church of Canada has just published an election kit.

To see it, hit this link.. action/election

Sunday, 21 September 2014

How India changed the Way I see the World ~ by Nick Cuthbertson

Hi, for anyone who doesn’t know me I’m Nick and this summer I was given the amazing opportunity to volunteer with free the children, helping to build a school in rural India, through a scholarship from Blackberry. For the past couple of years I have been involved in social justice issues, you may remember me a couple of years back asking you for jeans to help homeless youth in the HRM, and the results from Woodlawn alone, were overwhelming to say the least. And because of that, my involvement in that cause was really eye opening for me, and I quickly developed a passion for helping others, seeing what a huge difference it was possible for me to make. This passion took the shape of volunteering, especially with the organization free the children.
Free the Children was created by Craig Kielburger when he was 12 years old, after reading about the murder of a boy from Pakistan, by the name of Iqbal Masih. Iqbal was forced into slavery at the age of four, for six years he would be chained to his carpet-making loom in forced labor. He was eventually able to escape though, and he began speaking out against bonded labor, and aided over 3000 children in escaping from circumstances similar to those he faced. Craig was outraged by the news of this boys murder, likely for speaking out against child exploitation, and with the help of eleven of his classmates, formed what’s now free the children, a massive charity with the goal to break the cycle of poverty, by using a 5 pillar model, of education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security.
I first became involved with free the children through their “we create change” initiative of collecting pennies to provide clean water in areas without it. A  small group from my junior high school and I were once again shocked by the support of our community, and were able to raise enough to provide 38 people with clean water for the rest of their lives. I also took part in my school’s free the children group, raising money this time to build a school, and it was through this group that I found out about the Blackberry scholarship program.
In India my group consisted of of 24 youth from across Canada, two facilitators from free the children and a local facilitator and translator, named Rupesh. I helped in building a school for the community of Bagad and it’s surrounding villages. When we weren’t building, we were busy learning about and being immersed in the day to day life and culture of this community, as well as learning about the plans for change as well as the specific challenges the area faced. Bagad is a small, impoverished village the northwestern part of India, in the province of Rajasthan, where the average weekly income is less than $8 Canadian. (show slide of old school) This was the previous school in Bagad, and it was a source of many problems for students. The school was built in the early 50’s, with too few classrooms to accommodate the population of it’s surrounding villages, it was built at the bottom of a hill, so it would flood during the rainy season, it lacked proper bathrooms, and lastly, it was built by the government on community land without the permission of the community, creating tensions between the two, and obstacles getting in the way of education. When free the children intervened in the community in 2008, they were able set to work building an improved school (show pictures of new school), with an appropriate amount of classrooms, sanitary latrines with hand washing stations, and support from the community.  At the school, we were working on building classrooms number six and seven, the last two needed for the community. Mostly our work included (show slides) mixing cement, carrying rocks and dirt, and digging, to build up the foundations of the classrooms.
The reason I’m talking about this now, is because I found that my trip to India had a lot of relevance to what we talk about here in church, especially the story of Nicodemus that says:
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above'. The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 

Jesus was talking about seeing through different eyes, seeing anew. And my experiences in India really changed how I saw things in the world. I started seeing myself as a part of something bigger than myself, more than ever before. The school for instance, one of the key factors of breaking the cycle of poverty in Bagad, it wasn’t just built by my group, it was started by people who came before us, and it will be finished by people that will go after us, it’s a massive effort that wouldn’t be able to be achieved without the help of the overwhelmingly supportive community members, and multiple groups of youth. And even that is just a part in fully breaking the cycle of poverty in this one community, out of the millions around the globe needing support.
Then I also started to see the world with not just new ideas, but an entirely new perspective. I felt more in touch to god’s world, through the things I saw like women walking for kilometers at a time just to get water, and seeming to think nothing of it, or a family of eight sleeping on the floor of a one room house with a leaky roof. And it helps in arriving at a more complete image of the creation, as we often see only a small part of it, but with this new experience and knowledge, I found my views on water, education and many other aspects challenged, and I began to see the world’s problems in a different way. I began to see beyond the images of starving children used so often by charities, I began to see that life in impoverished areas was much more complex than just donating, every situation is different. The people in the area and that I was working in for example were very open to change and hopeful for a better future, and Rajasthan is not without resources, it’s a lush place that could thrive if given the chance. With these observations, I saw that the only way to possibly work towards the solutions needed is through a goal of sustainability, and mass collaboration, and I began to see this collaboration starting to come together, more and more. And I also started to see that while things aren’t great for many people, around the world that things are getting better, albeit slowly. Take for example Myani Bai, a woman from Bagad whose daughter, Nankee was born with a birth defect, where her eyes hadn’t developed properly, which left her blind and an outcast. When free the children became involved in the community however, Nankee was able to get the operation she needed, she’s now considered to be normal and she’s been able to gradually gain her sight. My main change in the way I see things is that I see change as more gradual, but also more present in the world we live in.