The Ecological and Social Justice Action Group (ESJAG) at the Cathedral is committed to working for social justice in our local community and in the wider world. Our understanding of social justice proceeds from our vision of the Kingdom of God as a world where everyone is valued as a sacred child of God. You can read the Cathedral’s statement on social justice here.
Our understanding of social justice proceeds from our vision of the Kingdom of God as a world where everyone is valued as a sacred child of God.
God requires justice and calls us to participate in bringing all people into right relationships with each other and with nature.
Many of the structures of our world are unjust, creating inequalities, with the result that many people are oppressed, and subject to violence, lack basic necessities, and have little power over their own lives. Overcoming injustice means more than outreach to those in need: it means addressing root causes in order to transform the unjust structures of the world.
To do so, we must listen to the oppressed and support their own struggles for justice. Seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, our reading of Scripture, and participation in the body of Christ, we act through analysis, education, protest, and advocacy, finding strength in our collective worship and faith.
We acknowledge our own implication in unjust structures and that our motives may be mixed. Therefore we take action in humility, in solidarity and respect for those working from a non-Christian perspective, and we recognize that those in positions of power are also children of God.
We commit ourselves to working for social justice in our local community and in the wider world, believing that we are all bound up in each other’s fate, and that only in a transformed and just world will we be fully alive and fully able to enjoy God’s love.
Everyone is welcome to the ESJAG meetings. We meet on the 1st Sunday of the month at noon in the Cathedral and always love to meet new people and hear new ideas. We hope you will join us!
News from ESJAG
In a week’s time, a group of pilgrims from the Cathedral would have been on their way for a pilgrimage to Iona, a tiny island in the inner Hebrides, off the coast of Mull on the West of Scotland. Seen from here in Montreal, or even from London England, Iona feels as if it sits on the edge of the world. Even from London, it’s a 13 hour journey, which involves at least two train journeys, one ferry to cross from mainland Scotland to Mull, one coach journey across the Isle of Mull, and then another short ferry ride across to the jetty on Iona. Pilgrimages are as much in the journey as in the destination. The island, which is famous for its influence on the development of Christianity in Scotland and the north of England, is usually busy with tourists during the day, and quiet again at the end of the day, when the last ferry has gone back. There are about 100 inhabitants on this tiny island, supplemented by pilgrims staying with the Iona Community, in Iona Abbey. Today, the church remembers St Columba, an Irish monk and missionary who made Iona his headquarters after leaving Ireland on his missionary journeys. For him, Iona was not the end of a long journey on the edge of the world. Instead, in the 6th century, at a time when roads were sparse and dangerous, Iona was a very convenient hub from which to hop all around Scotland by boats and coracles, thereby facilitating the spread of the Gospel in a very Celtic fashion – in a harsh landscape where life was tough and where people were at the mercy of the elements. The island – on which the Scottish kings have been buried – continued to be an important centre of Christian spirituality for centuries and medieval Iona Abbey – built in AD 1200 on the site of Columba’s monastery – still stands tall, the point of focus for so many pilgrims. The project to rebuild the Abbey – which had been semi derelict – was led by George McLeod, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, whose parish was in a poor shipbuilding area on the bank of the Clyde in Glasgow. At a time of high unemployment, McLeod found that the church was having a hard time connecting with the people. There did not seem to be a common language between ministers, however well intentioned. There was little trust between them, and little understanding of each other’s lives and work. McLeod therefore decided to bring together a number of young ministers hot off their seminaries and a number of builders and craftsmen, in order to rebuild the common areas of Iona Abbey, the place where a now defunct Benedictine community used to live. The project took place over many summers until the rebuilding was complete. There was appetite for those who had taken part in the project to continue to meet, and the Iona Community became reality, an ecumenical community committed to working to change the hearts of all. Members, of which I am one, do not live on Iona but instead are scattered around Scotland, the UK, and now the world, and continue to live by a rule of life which includes a commitment to prayer and reading the bible, a commitment to account for our use of money and our use of time, and a commitment to work for justice and peace and the wholeness of creation. The Iona Community is a group of deeply committed and prayerful Christians, most of whom are also activists with wide interests in issues of justice and peace. Attending our meetings can be exhausting because of the breadth of our interests and the many ways in which these are expressed into action. One of my early learnings in the Community was that – even with the best intentions in the world – it was impossible for me to be involved in every single issue of justice and peace. But even when I thought I was failing somewhere, I knew that some of my other fellow members would be deeply involved and active, and therefore together we could make a difference in many different areas in the world, thereby better contributing to building up the Kingdom of God in all its fullness. At this time, many of us continue to be isolated at home, eagerly waiting for the day when we can be released back into the world and resume life in a way that will look a little more like what it was. Meanwhile, the world continues to show itself to us in all its brokenness. Like the pilgrims of Iona, and all those who, like Columba before them, have needed a place from which to resource themselves in order to map out what our personal Christian calling might be, let us use this time and this place to discern our gifts, talents, and energies, that we may be ready and know how best to offer them to God. O God, who gave to your servant Columba the gifts of courage, faith and cheerfulness, and sent people out from Iona to carry the word of your gospel to every creature, grant, we pray, a like spirit to your church, even at this present time. Further in all things the purpose of our Community, that hidden things may be revealed to us, and new ways found to touch the lives of all. May we preserve with each other sincere charity and peace, and if it be your holy will, grant that a place of your abiding be continued still to be a sanctuary and a light. Through Jesus Christ, Amen A prayer for the Iona Community –Bertrand Olivier
At the end of our May 23rd mini-conference, Taddy promised a list of links that provide additional information on the situation of indigenous land defenders and water defenders, including the threats that they face and the ways that we can support them. Many of these are time sensitive, requiring a response within the next few weeks. None of us can respond to everything. Pick what speaks to you. It is often annoying and overwhelming to find one’s inbox filled with appeals of this kind. I think it helps to remember, though, that this tremendous surge of activity is also an extremely hopeful sign that people worldwide are waking up to the urgency and fragility of our present situation. Mining and other corporate justice https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2564 Indigenous communities and COVID19 https://amnesty.ca/paragraphs-pages/building-immunity-community This just arrived yesterday in my inbox, or I would have included it the presentation Flooding of pristine wilderness, with risk of mercury contamination Site C https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/58577/action/1 Don’t Gamble with Inuit lives https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/35401/action/1 Lake Quesnel https://e-activist. com/page/57815/action/1 Tyendinaga land defenders https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/36813/action/1 Just, Green Recovery from COVID19 This link makes it really, really easy to submit a letter to the editor, describing your vision of a just, green recovery from COVID19 https://davidsuzuki.org/action/green-recovery-letter-to-the-editor/ https://raventrust.com/ Raven trust is an amazing organization that provides legal defence funds and support for Canadian Indigenous communities defending their rights in court. I would urge everyone to check them out. There is a huge amount of information on their website, including links to podcasts,webinars, etc. They have been involved in some very important legal successes. They are more in need of donations (including airmiles) than letters of support. The Amazon https://www.devp.org/en/campaign/forourcommonhome/action https://www.devp.org/en/campaign/forourcommonhome/pledge If you sign this, please consider very specifically what you intend to do, e.g., • what forms of transit can you use more often, where to, when? • what products will you start or stop buying? • where should you shop more or less? • how much can you reduce your meat consumption? at what meals? what will replace it? do you need new recipes etc.? • what, when, where, how often can you do to connect with nature? Vague, general resolutions don’t tend to result in action. https://secure.avaaz.org/en/community_petitions/to_the_president_of_brazil_and_to_leaders_of_the_c_help_protect_the_amazons_indigenous_peoples_from_covid19/ (I’m not a hundred percent confident that this is the best solution, but something needs to be done, and the more support this petition receives, the harder it will be to ignore the situation.) Other areas of Latin America https://www.amnesty.ca/earthdefenders Latin America earth defenders https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/41324/action/1 Canadian investment and trade in the Americas Columbia: https://www.amnesty.ca/get-involved/take-action-now/colombia-indigenous-communityattacked https://www.amnesty.ca/get-involved/take-action-now/colombia-defender-risk-covid-19-quarantine https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/57662/action/1 Honduras: https://takeaction.amnesty.ca/page/35375/action/1 Brenda Linn
Turbulent Times Ecological and Social Justice at Christ Church Cathedral Aiming to inform, to encourage, to inspire and to engage Earth Day, April 22nd, 2020 IN a windowsill at the cathedral, a saw-whet owl, photographed by Jeffrey Mackie two years ago. The tiny owl’s presence in the middle of the city in the middle of the day highlights questions that many of us have been grappling with recently. Is wildlife in the city something to be celebrated or something to be feared? And more broadly, what does the health of the urban forest and its denizens have to do with social justice and human rights, here in Montreal, and around the world? These questions have become more pressing with the rise of COVID 19. The crisis is making it clearer than ever before that, it is time for us to wake up and take a hard look at what we are up to, as a nation and as a species. Nature is watching us. Beginning a newsletter at this moment in history is like taking photographs from the window of a swiftly moving train. All the same, it has to be attempted, because social and ecological justice issues have a particular urgency in these alarming and turbulent times. This newsletter will attempt to cover some of the educational and advocacy initiatives undertaken at the cathedral, including those that will take place online. It will also provide some background information and discussion of current issues, links to relevant scientific articles and news items, and updates on the activities of other organizations with which we are affiliated. In addition, we will provide links to petitions from other organizations with which we share an urgent common cause. Memorable Moments: During the Maundy Thursday Zoom service, while Jonathan sang the beautiful plainsong setting of Ubi Caritas, we watched a series of photos of love and compassion at work in the world. Among the people standing at a snowy rally the day after the early morning raid on the Wet’suwet’en; or the doctors and nurses heading to New York City on an airplane so they could help with Covid, making hearts with their hands; or responding to to a new refugee clampdown; or walking in the Climate March and the Pride parade, we recognised the familiar faces of cathedral clergy and parishioners. Gabrielle and Deborah and Jonathan arranged for us to follow up this meditation by writing Amnesty letters in support of those who have been arrested for acts of compassion. Deus ibi est. In addition to the moments captured in those beautiful photographs, we would like to share one more. It is March 3rd, a Monday. The cathedral is almost empty, but a young mother and her six-year-old daughter have come in to light a candle. Their attention is attracted by the oasis by the font, and by the Boyd’s beautiful pledge tree. The mother reads and assents to the pledge, and shows her daughter how to hang little garlands of leaves on the tree. Unfortunately there are no longer seeds for the little girl to plant (as there had been on Nuit Blanche) but she is happy to continue greening the tree, while her mother watches the fountain in the font, examines the climate march placards that are buried in the foliage, and reads the message on Vivian’s banners, telling of living water springing up to everlasting life. She dips her finger in the water, and quietly makes the sign of the cross. Placards from the Climate March on September 27th 🌏ur garden is on fire!🔥 Let’s stop pouring oil on the flames Mon jardin, ce n’est pas un jardin C’est la Neige (Gilles Vigneault, 1966) A Memorable Meeting. On March 8th, the Second Sunday in Lent, a group of twenty-some parishioners and friends met over lunch to listen to Michele Rattray Huish’s presentation, “Hope for Climate.” Michele’s message was cautiously optimistic. Drawing on her lifetime of experience at the UN, and the content of recent scientific reports, she assured her listeners that that it was not too late to avert ecological collapse. We now have the technology, she told us. And we still have the time – just barely. Michele’s presentation was a call to hope, but it was also to repentance if ever there was one. If repentance means turning again, turning back, reversing our present course, then repentance is what we are called to do. We need to turn back from: Destroying natural ecosystems for roads, parking lots, housing developments, pipelines Deforestation for lumber and paper products. Using fossil fuels (which means dramatically reducing air travel) Supporting large-scale “agro-biz”, especially the production of red meat and dairy products, and the importing of perishable foods by airplane Permitting trade in wild animals, especially internationally We need to turn towards: Sustainable green energy technologies A guaranteed minimum income to tide people through the time of transition Justice for indigenous groups who act as guardians of their water and their land Focusing on what we need, rather than on what we want. Seeking joy from its true roots, our relationships, rather than from our possessions. “We”, here, of course means all of us individually in the lifestyle choices that we make to reduce our footprint on the planet. But it also means our governments. These changes must be mandated – their scope is beyond individual control. The role of individuals, and of groups like ourselves, is to put pressure on governments, and to persuade other people to demand or at least to accept these urgent changes. Michele laid out the data clearly. Unless we turn back from our present course, and turn back immediately, we are headed into a global nightmare that almost defies imagination. One feature of that nightmare will be new viruses, lured out of the rainforests and melting ice caps, and looking for new hosts: us. Three days later, the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 …