What about a gold medal for social justice? (Op-Ed piece in The Toronto Star)

Posted on Friday, February 14th, 2014 at 7:42 pm

My cousin Derek attends Fairlawn Avenue United Church in Toronto and he copied me on this post which is an article his minister submitted to The Toronto Star. It appeared as an Op-Ed piece in today’s paper. I know we’re all Canada-crazy with the Olympics, but his article reminds us that we should be rallying behind our poor and not just our athletes.

What about a gold medal for social justice? (Op-Ed piece in The Toronto Star)

I love the Olympics, the gifted athletes, the competition; the joy of victory and the sorrow of loss that goes with these games are the human experience in a microcosm. In fact, as the gold medal men’s hockey game is scheduled to take place on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m., when Canada (I’m an optimist) takes to the ice, we will be showing the game on the screens at the front of our church, combining prayer and hockey, a most Canadian combination.

But much as I love watching the Olympics and all the energy and enthusiasm that goes with them, I deeply wish that we had the same excitement and media coverage for poverty reduction. Imagine Ron McLean announcing with bated breath that we had just lifted so many Canadians out of poverty and into lives of dignity. Or if we gave gold, silver and bronze medals to businesses that created new well paying jobs or for those organizations and governments that were dedicated heart and soul to creating real economic opportunity for the shrinking middle class and the growing number of Canadians who find themselves on the outside looking in.

The increasingly grim situation that many Canadians are facing transcends our dated notions of left or right. We need a new paradigm that fits the revolutionary times in which we find ourselves. We are all living in the midst of a revolution – technological, social and economic – and we keep attempting to use solutions from the old world and are surprised when they no longer work in the new.

On Feb. 13 representatives of many of Toronto’s faith communities gathered at City Hall for the second annual Faith in the City Conference. The subject was the growing income gap and what we as faith communities can do to address it.

As faith communities we experience the result of our current economic dislocation every week. We minister to people who are losing their jobs, or wonder why it is so difficult for their children to build sustainable lives for themselves and see retirement as something to fear, as they cannot afford to save very much and pensions are disappearing. As faith communities it’s as though we are pulling drowning people out of a river every day, eventually you have to ask, ‘how is it that people are falling into the river in the first place?’

In the faith statement on the economy that we signed and are sending to the city we say the following:

“Toronto’s faith traditions speak of the central place that poor and vulnerable people must have in our society. Our faith traditions teach us that good societies have taken special care of those who are vulnerable, poor and marginalized. We are deeply concerned about the growing income gap in Toronto, the growth of precarious employment and the impact of both on our society. We speak and advocate from the heart of our sacred traditions in making this appeal for a more socially just and compassionate city.”

That is what we are asking our city to do, to be a model of creating a sustainable economic future for everyone. We want to work with the cty as partners to create a better future for all our citizens. All of our faith traditions embrace a belief in social justice. The time to act is now; we can only rescue so many drowning people.

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