This Week in Canadian Religion 2018-05-27

by | May 27, 2018


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

“The streets of Edmonton’s Mill Woods neighbourhood were flooded with parade floats and tens of thousands of people from the Sikh community Sunday.

They were celebrating Vaisakhi, which marks the birth of the Sikh faith more than 300 years ago.

Attendee Sangram Singh said parade attendance has grown since it started in 1999, much like Edmonton’s Sikh community.

“The growth is because this country is so accepting to everyone,” said Singh, who has lived in Alberta for 20 years. “Everybody here from India or Punjab or the Sikh community enjoys it so much because of the freedom — freedom to have your religion the way you want.””


“Idil Shirdon thought her brother was just maturing when he found religion in his late teens. And when he started talking angrily about Syria, neither she nor her mother suspected he was thinking of going there.

But then he disappeared.

Weeks later, the unemployed 20-year-old was calling himself Abu Usamah and raving on video about destroying the West. Farah Mohamed Shirdon had joined the so-called Islamic State.

“They were both unaware that Shirdon was contemplating leaving Canada, let alone joining a terrorist group,” the RCMP wrote in an affidavit after interviewing the Calgary family.”


THE Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada on Thursday strongly condemned the destruction of a mosque and a historical house in Sialkot, Pakistan, by local municipal officials and a mob of 600 religious extremists.

In a statement, they said: “It is shocking that local police and municipal authorities were present during the attack and destruction of property. Authorities did not take any action to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of

“The property is of historical significance to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. Once the house was demolished, the large mob attacked a mosque adjacent to the demolished house. During the attack, the mob demolished the mosque’s minarets, dome, doors and other parts of the structure. During the demolition of the mosque, the municipal representatives and police supported the attack by not making any efforts to stop the unruly mob.””Ahmadi Muslims. Giving in to pressure from local extremist clerics, the officials from the Municipal Committee of Sialkot City unlawfully demolished a century-old historic house.”


“The kind of Christianity that makes headlines today is the Mike Pence brand — conservative and aligned with the United States Republican party — leaving many people to believe, including progressive Christians, the religion is politically irredeemable. To use the terms “progressive” and “Christian” in the same sentence seems, to many, deeply odd.

Michael Coren, a cultural critic and defender of progressive Christianity, recently argued that “there is a battle raging and roaring for the soul of Canadian Christianity — between what we can broadly describe as the church’s left and right flanks. And those on the right are winning the day.”

Along with his fellow progressive Christians, Coren is fighting for the soul of progressive Canadians — a cohort that has largely opted out of Christianity. But the truth is that this decline is not new. Since the 1960s, many progressives in Canada have turned their backs on Christianity.

While there may be fewer people in the pews at the United Church and in other liberal denominations, they are not empty. Many public figures in Canada, including Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario and Green party leader Elizabeth May could be called progressive Christians.”


“The growing number of Muslim youth turning to a help line tailored to their needs has prompted officials to extend its hours of operation.

Naseeha — meaning ‘advice’ in Arabic — received about 2,000 calls from Ontario residents in 2017. Overall, there were 18,000 calls made.

That number is projected to double in 2018.

“People can call in and speak to a [Muslim peer counsellor] who they may not know, but may have a better understanding of the background of where they’re coming from culturally and religiously,” said outreach manager Huma Saeedi.

“It’s really important in today’s day and age with youth that are struggling with their identity being Canadian and Muslim,” she said.

Ontario youth are calling for spiritual and psychological help, specifically related to mental health, faith and sexual orientation. In the last year, Saeedi said most callers have been between 21 and 30 years old.”


“It was a discussion in her senior English class that inspired Alysha Mohamed to write her award-winning play, My Hands Were Made For This.

Mohamed’s play, in which she stars and co-directed, received awards at the recent Provincial High School Drama Festival in Red Deer for playwriting, direction, performance, production design, stage management and professional conduct.

Mohamed is in Grade 12 at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy and recalls a discussion in her English class that moved her profoundly.

“I was raised Muslim, my entire family is Muslim and I love my religion deeply, but I have seen how it has been corrupted by extremists. Islam is meant to be such a beautiful religion yet I continue to see how it is corrupted. I want to be a voice that leads people to see the warmer, gentler side of Islam.”“We were talking about how even the most monstrous characters in literature, and in real life, have families and lives that are filled with love. I saw the conflict in Syria as an ideal setting to explore this idea,” says Mohamed, whose family moved to Canada from Kenya when she was just three years old.”


William A. Macdonald is a corporate lawyer-turned-consultant with a long history of public service and social engagement.

In his Charles R. Bronfman lecture in 2000, Ken Dryden, the great Canadiens goaltender, compared national games in the United States and Canada. Football, he said, (more so than baseball) requires central control – the opposite of hockey. In hockey, once the puck is dropped, there is chaos. The only choice players have is to do what it takes. The example of Canada’s game has helped to shape Canada.

The Canadian story has always been different from the American – one of evolution, not revolution; persuasion rather than force; and compromise over winning. Its initial English and French connections were gradually weakened, not ruptured. In contrast, the United States was formed and preserved by force. Both the American break from Britain in 1775-83 and the split between North and South in 1861-65 were sudden and violent. Canadian history, in contrast, has always been more political than military.

Since Canada began as a nation – Quebec in 1608 and then Confederation in 1867 – it has had three big achievements. First, despite its difficult geography and challenging history, with its French/English split and proximity to the United States, it has survived, not just as a nation but with one province, Quebec, distinctive in language and religion. Second, Canada has consolidated its territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific and north to the Arctic. Finally, despite divisions of nationality, culture, language, religion and class, it has developed a political and socio-cultural outlook that works. Its one big failure has been with the Indigenous people, although that is now beginning to be addressed.”


Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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