Category Archives: Current Events

Film Crew Reports From the Frontlines of a Syrian Refugee Camp: “Throughout the suffering, God remains present, and His presence brings hope.”

by Luke McKee

As the world considers how it will respond to the Syrian crisis, millions of men, women and children remain trapped in a state of chaos, struggling to survive in foreign countries having been forced from theirs.

The Trapped in Transition film team explored the lives of Syrian refugees and made friends along the way.
The Trapped in Transition film team explored the lives of Syrian refugees and made friends along the way.

While Canada plans to sponsor thousands of refugees in the coming months, the sad and heartbreaking reality is that represents less than one percent of the total number of people displaced by the Syrian conflict. Many conversations are focused on bringing refugees West, but what will be our response to be to those left behind?

The plight of these refugees is the focus of the short film, “Trapped in Transition,” commissioned by Partners International Canada (PI).

The film shares a beautiful story of partnership as local Lebanese leaders sacrificially serve on the front lines. Their work in the region is done with the larger vision of building the church in the Middle East.
Continue reading Film Crew Reports From the Frontlines of a Syrian Refugee Camp: “Throughout the suffering, God remains present, and His presence brings hope.”

The 17-year old Girl Forced to Church Shares her Advice to the Church

A couple of weeks ago, one of our editors wrote a blog that touched a nerve. It was called Why We Force Our Kids, Almost Without Fail, to Go to Church. Holly Stiller, the girl in the blog, wrote back.

By Holly Stiller IMG_7207

Advice columns and articles about keeping youth in the Church pass through my newsfeed regularly. Confused parents and pastors keep trying to figure teenagers out. Well, here’s my inside scoop on what the Church should do to keep teenagers like myself in the church.

Stop trying so hard. You are not the reason I’m at church. I am here because of God, and the work that He has done in my life. The differences that people at church share are blessings, not things that need to be bridged.

Teens don’t need a cool, hip preacher in order for us to hear from God. In fact, seeing a 50- year old in skinny jeans trying to relate to us about the Kardashians makes me really uncomfortable.

We don’t want you to pretend to have the same interests as us, because you don’t. We are at different places in life, and that’s okay. I don’t have grandkids, and you’re (probably) not taking Driver’s Ed. That’s what’s so great about the Christian community; it’s a mix of people who wouldn’t normally be with each other coming together to do the work of God. If I wanted to hang out with people who were just like me, then I wouldn’t be at church at 10a.m on a Sunday morning. I’d be hanging out with my friends – or just in my bed at home.

Here are my top four tips for churches from my teenage perspective:

  1. We’re not afraid of hymns. There’s something beautiful about hearing a song that’s been sung by generations of Christians. We don’t need the hottest hits from 99.9 FM to be engaged in worship.
  2. As cute as your kids may be, we don’t always want to be stuck babysitting. Just like you guys, all teenagers have different gifts and aren’t the same. We’d love to get involved in ministry. Give us a chance to really be a part of the body of Christ.
  3. Don’t dumb down the sermons. Don’t feel the need to protect us from being confused. Faith isn’t simple, being a Christian in high school has already taught us that. We want to be able to talk about the big stuff, whether you know the answers or not.
  4. We may do things differently. Help us make it possible, even if we’re doing it differently than you would. Yeah, we’ll probably pick pizza over egg salad sandwiches, and we may even get a little rowdy for your liking, but that’s okay.

One of the greatest parts of being in the church community is the wisdom and relationships that you can build with people who are in different places in life.

Intergenerational relationships are so important, and we do like it when older people in the church want to invest in us. We want to get to know you — we’re just a little more awkward and moody about it.

We know you like us, and we like you too.

Holly Stiller lives in Port Perry and writes for Love is Moving magazine, available in print for the first time with the Jan/Feb Faith Today, arriving with your Faith Today. Subscribe today.

 

In Light of Paris: A Refugee Support Group Finds its Way

by Karen Stiller

We have one of those decorative signs in our house near the back door so our kids can see it as they leave for school. Instead of “dance! sing! celebrate!” this one is about doing the right thing.

Syria in rubble (http://photo.sf.co.ua/id154)
Syria in rubble (http://photo.sf.co.ua/id154)

It is a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr., with this quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I’m sure it annoys our kids. As if they need Martin Luther King, Jr. nagging at them too.

But it is top of mind for me these days, after Paris, and before our next meeting of the Port Perry Refugee Support Group.

We formed the group, our own church getting the ball rolling, to try to bring together churches, along with community groups and individuals who might not go to a church, but still care deeply about the devastation of Syria’s people.

We thought this was something we could do together. To borrow a line from the EFC, something we could do better together than apart.
Continue reading In Light of Paris: A Refugee Support Group Finds its Way

Christians Should Move Swiftly: A Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

By  Kevin McKay

The image of young Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washing up on the shore is the result of inaction. This tragic story has come to symbolize the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’ however it provides Christians with two incredibly profound opportunities in the face of one of the biggest mass displacements of people in history.

A Syrian Refugee Village in Lebanon
A Syrian Refugee Village in Lebanon

The first opportunity is to help our brothers and sisters in need and demonstrate God’s love in us. This can be accomplished in our own neighbourhood, cities and within Canada as well as in Syria and elsewhere but God commands Christians to demonstrate His love sacrificially. God’s love is not meant to be passive, it is not to be offered with conditions, and it is not confined by borders, but rather it’s meant to be freely dispensed through action.

1 John 3:16-18: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Therefore, the answer to the immediate refugee crisis is simple. Christians should move swiftly to assist the millions of people who are brutally trapped in transition in practical ways by supporting organizations who provide emergency relief, and agencies that sponsor the relocation of legitimate refugee claimants to Canada. This is an important, immediate, but short-term opportunity.
Continue reading Christians Should Move Swiftly: A Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Why John G. Stackhouse Jr. Wants us to Think Differently

We’re interviewing Stackhouse! And we’re offering one of his most popular books as a subscription bonus during Sep/Oct. John G. Stackhouse Jr. is an author and professor, and a popular Faith Today columnist. Stackhouse recently moved from Regent College in Vancouver to Crandall University in Moncton to join the faculty as professor of religious studies and dean of faculty development. And, he writes the provocative cover story for the Sep/Oct Faith Today. It felt like a good time for a Q and A with this award-winning scholar and public communicator. 

"Let’s ask each other, 'What do you think about that?' and then, 'What do you think God wants us to think and do about that?' Conversations would change pretty quickly, wouldn’t they?" asks John G. Stackhouse Jr.
“Let’s ask each other, ‘What do you think about that?’ and then,
‘What do you think God wants us to think and do about that?’ Conversations would change pretty quickly, wouldn’t they?” asks John G. Stackhouse Jr.

FT: You’ve recently made a big move, from Vancouver and Regent to Crandall and Moncton. Can you tell us how you are settling in? And what you are most looking forward to in your new role there?

JS: By North American standards, at least, I’ve made a few “cross-cultural” moves before: from northern Ontario to West Texas as a teen; from Chicago to rural Iowa as a newly-minted PhD; from Winnipeg to Vancouver and from the University of Manitoba to Regent College in mid-career; and now to the Maritimes and Crandall University. I love teaching students at any level—from first-year beginners to doctoral students—and I am delighted to find a third job in a row that lets me range beyond the customary disciplinary limitations of the academy. (Normally, you must be a theologian OR a historian OR a philosopher OR an ethicist.)

What will be new for me at Crandall, however, is the role of Dean of Faculty Development, which I see in a “player-coach” model. I love helping new scholars get grounded and oriented and encouraging mid-career professors to focus on their strengths and thus increase both their enthusiasm and their effectiveness.

FT: Your passion for the “intellectual health” of the Canadian evangelical church comes out loud and clear in the Sep/Oct cover story. What are your top recommendations for individuals and churches stemming from that story?

JS: First, we have got to read more, and read better. We receive dozens of messages every day, some of them helpful while many are inimical to Christian commitment. Clever people are behind many of those messages, and we need to be informed and trained to filter them properly. Only a course of regular and rigorous reading—books,magazines, and websites—and, yes, podcasts and online courses of high quality—can help us keep our feet and maintain a path of faithfulness in such a media storm.
Continue reading Why John G. Stackhouse Jr. Wants us to Think Differently

“I have my father to thank for that.” Thanks to all the Dads out There

Did you know that the first Father’s Day was held in July of 1908, in  Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. (Yes, we visited Wikipedia!)

IMG_2551
Karen Stiller from Faith Today remembers how proud she was of her RCMP dad.

We asked around the office to see who might share some memories of their father as we head toward Father’s Day. Read on.

From Bill Winger, vice-president, operations of the EFC. 

My dad was a businessman who spent most of his waking hours managing his electrical appliance retail and service operation. Those hours not invested in business were invested in serving the church as a Sunday School teacher, church secretary, and board member. When he had time for vacation it was usually a business trip or a trip to visit missionary friends and only mom would go along.

By the time I was 17 my relationship with my parents was waning because of my rebellion against a church intensely hanging on to dogmatic rules built on thin biblical relationships.

That year my dad did something I will never forget. He took a full week out of his busy schedule and he and I went to see Expo 67 (the worlds fair) in Montreal.

It was a week of discussion, site seeing, learning and fun. One of great cost to him, one of great value and meaning to me. My dad did indeed love me! This was shown not so much through the money spent attending that event, but through his gift of time. Thanks Dad.

From Rick Hiemstra, director, research and media relations for the EFC

My father began his life in Nazi occupied Holland. His faith began to flower when as a boy he pulled a Bible out of some trash that people were burning and he took it home to read it. He has always told me “think for yourself” (especially when he thought I wasn’t). I think much of this came out of a context of seeing people in Nazi Germany who seemed to unthinkingly follow Hitler. He has always had a sense that one’s soul, politically and spiritually, shouldn’t be trusted to the direction of the crowd. In faith that is how he began, by pulling a Bible out of the fire and beginning to digest what he found there for himself.

Over the years, we haven’t always agreed on all aspects of faith (not many of us do), but I’ve always followed his advice to “think for myself” probing for what may not seem obvious in both faith and life. I’ve tempered his advice by thinking with other people’s thoughts, but I’ve never trusted my soul to the crowd. I have my father to thank for that.

From Anita Kwan, communications coordinator and Faith Today circulation and distribution

“I recall my father tucking me in bed each night reminding me of God’s faithfulness and never-ending love.”

From Karen Stiller, senior editor, Faith Today

I remember my dad, out on the back step of our home in Dartmouth, briskly polishing his tall boots. My dad was an RCMP officer, and I was very proud of that.

I loved seeing my Dad in his red serge, his breeches and his boots. After my dad did his own boots, he would often do our shoes too. It was a shock to me when I married to discover that my husband had no intention of polishing my shoes for me. I thought that’s what men did.

Over the years, I have seen my father, the tough cop who was always gentle with his girls, soften and grow more and more tender. In his late 70s it is not unusual to see his eyes well up at a very sad or very happy thought. Both move him deeply.

I love this side of him, even though I think he might change it sometimes if he could. I see God’s father-love in my Dad in his willingness to do anything for the ones he loves (he would still polish my shoes for me if I left them around in a dusty state), and in his  tender heart.

Maybe you’d like to get your dad a subscription to Faith Today for Father’s Day. Subscribe until the end of June and he receives a copy of Shifting Stats as well, (unless you decide to keep it for yourself of course).

 

Five Years Later: Still Learning From Haiti

by Dana Smith

I expected and prepared myself for much of what I saw when our plane landed in Haiti.

Dana Smith in Haiti with other Samaritan's Purse staff and excited children receiving Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
Dana Smith in Haiti with other Samaritan’s Purse staff and excited children receiving Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I went to Haiti expecting to see faces made stern and joyless from generations of dysfunctional government, rampant violence, and natural disasters such as the quake that killed more than 230,000 Haitians a mere five years ago.

What I didn’t expect was what I saw in myself during a visit to Haiti to report on Samaritan’s Purse Gender Protection programs and Operation Christmas Child.

From the moment you land in Port Au Prince airport you face crushing heat and smothering hordes of people, either trying to sell you something or give you a cab ride. Cab drivers, waving their ID badges, warn you in frantic broken English not to take rides with anyone who might just be playing the part of a cab driver with no intention of taking you anywhere you’re looking to go.

Once on the streets of Port Au Prince, the chaos only worsens in the city which is home to more than one million people, and about three million people in its outskirts.
Continue reading Five Years Later: Still Learning From Haiti

A Good Day for Religious Freedom in Canada

EFC lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos and EFC President Bruce Clemenger.
EFC lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos and EFC President Bruce Clemenger.

As we prepare for the next EFC webinar on June 11 on religious freedom, we revisit some recent developments in Canada.

 by Albertos Polizogopoulos

January 28 was a great day for religious freedom and the freedom of religious individuals to associate together in community.

Justice Jamie Campbell of the Nova Scotia Superior Court issued his decision in Trinity Western University’s application to judicially review the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s decision not to admit Trinity Western University graduates to the practice of law in Nova Scotia.

In his 140 page decision, Justice Campbell set out the reasons for his decision, which concluded that the NSBS attempted to regulate Trinity Western University’s policies and practices, that the NSBS did not have the authority to do so and that even if it had had the authority to do so, it did not exercise that authority in a way that reasonably considered liberty, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Throughout his decision, Justice Campbell demonstrated his appreciation of not only the relevant law, but the importance of the issues at play and how those issues affect evangelical Christians. He recognized that in this case, the NSBS is bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms while Trinity Western University is protected by it. He clearly concluded that although Trinity Western University’s Community Covenant may be offensive to some, that it was not unlawful, noting that Trinity Western University had never been found to be in violation of applicable human rights legislation. In discussing Evangelical Christians’ desire to study law at a faith-based law school Justice Campbell stated:

[Evangelical Christians’] religious faith governs every aspect of their lives. When they study law, whether at a Christian law school or elsewhere, they are studying law first as Christians. Part of their religious faith involves being in the company of other Christians, not only for the purpose of worship. They gain spiritual strength from communing in that way. They seek out opportunities to do that. Being part of institutions that are defined as Christian in character is not an insignificant part of who they are.
Continue reading A Good Day for Religious Freedom in Canada

Exploring Religious Freedom in Canada Today

The next EFC Webinar is on the horizon on Thursday, June 11. Bruce  J. Clemenger, EFC president, will unpack what religious freedom means in Canada today — and what pastors, church leaders and individual Christians need to know. In this blog, Clemenger explores recent cases of significance in Canada.

By Bruce J. Clemenger

It’s been a busy year so far for religious freedom issues at Canadian courts, including two decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Each of these court decisions gives more definition to how the courts understand religious freedom and the intersection of religion and public life. Two focused specifically on the freedoms of religious communities and the important role communities play in the expression of religion. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 12.29.25 PM

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia strongly affirmed the freedom of religious organizations to maintain their religious identity and serve the public good in its judgment on the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society policy to refuse any law students with degrees from Trinity Western University’s (TWU) proposed law school.

The Barristers’ Society objects to TWU’s Community Covenant, which sets out what it means to work and study in this Christian educational community. TWU students are asked to adhere to a code of behaviour in keeping with the religious vision of life that animates the university. The covenant prohibits sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Harassment, bullying and disrespectful behaviour for any reason, including sexual orientation, also violate the covenant.

The judge in the case noted there was no evidence TWU graduates would not be properly qualified to practise law, nor that they would be more likely to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation than graduates of other law schools. The TWU Covenant breaks no laws or human rights legislation in B.C., and the judge concluded that learning in a Christian environment is an expression of religious freedom. “Requiring a person to give up that right in order to get his or her professional education recognized is an infringement of religious freedom.”

The judge concluded that learning in a Christian environment is an expression of religious freedom.

The judge also said government or quasi-government bodies such as law societies cannot coerce private institutions to conform to the beliefs of others about sexuality and marriage. He said the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cannot be used as a “tool in the hands of the state to enforce moral conformity with approved values.” It is not the role of the government, he said, “to create a moral melting pot.”

This court decision affirms that at the heart of a secular society is the freedom of religious communities to exist and flourish, to self-define their own character and ethos. Doing so is a form of religious expression.

This principle of respect for religious communities is echoed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent Loyola decision that found it was wrong for Quebec to require a Catholic high school to teach parts of Quebec’s curriculum on religion and ethics from a secular perspective.

The Court said a secular state “does not – and cannot – interfere with the beliefs or practices of a religious group unless they conflict with or harm overriding public interests.” The majority also said: “A secular state respects religious differences … does not seek to extinguish them” and “affirms and recognizes the religious freedom of individuals and their communities.”

A secular society, the way the courts are interpreting it, respects and accommodates religious differences. In this understanding, being secular means being nonsectarian. It is a way of managing religious diversity while being guided by public principles that all can affirm from their respective set of beliefs.

Government bodies violate their mandate when they require religious communities to be themselves secular and adopt secular values. In the cases of TWU and Loyola, the court found government bodies were imposing secularism on Christian institutions.

The EFC intervened in both these cases, and going forward it will be important for groups to continue to be active in the courts and promote religious freedom, especially as our society becomes increasingly secular. In the meantime, the recognition of the important role religious communities play in the lives of people of faith is good news.

Bruce J. Clemenger is president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. This column ran in the most recent Faith Today. Find out about the next EFC webinar on religious freedom here. Subscribe to Faith Today, Canada’s Christian magazine, here

 

“We Heard a Huge Rumbling Sound” — Canadian Volunteers Offer Eye-Witness Account

David and Pauline Streeter of Uxbridge, Ont., left Canada for Nepal thinking they were heading for a challenging but rewarding week of volunteer service at the Aanandit Charity Centre, a Christian organization that cares for under-privliged children in Nepal. The Streeters were going to lend a hand in the orphanage and help improve the organizations website. 

They landed one day before the earthquake and lived through one of the worst disasters to hit that small nation. They were evacuated out of Nepal last week and have arrived home safely. They share their experience with Faith Today blog readers — what it was like to be there, what the quake felt like, getting back home and how their concerns for the country they love. 

What was it like to be there?

It was extraordinary, scary. Something we have never experienced before, almost beyond comprehension. It is taking a while to assimilate it all in our minds.

“We felt the ground move beneath our feet, to the extent that we could not stand up straight, and were knocked to the ground. We felt afraid.”

What did you experience?

To begin with we saw bewilderment, even in the Nepalese who do have the occasional tremor, since they live in an earthquake zone. But they have the tremor, come outside of their buildings, wait for it to be over, and then go back in and carry on. This time there was no end to it.

Then we saw fear and panic. Later we drove around Kathmandu and saw the damage to the houses and to the roads.

We heard a huge rumbling sound especially with the initial quake and then with other subsequent ones, though not so loud. Some of the smaller quakes were silent. We were sleeping outside at night and so were the rest of Kathmandu. Every time there was a tremor, people would scream, and then the dogs would start barking. Even small tremors set the dogs off, so they were our sentinels.

David and Pauline Streeter sleeping outside after the earthquake hit Nepal.
David and Pauline Streeter sleeping outside after the earthquake hit Nepal.

We were sleeping in the garden of our friends, Milan and Shusma Adhikari, who very kindly took us in, when our Guest House was deemed unsafe due to the many cracks in the walls. Their house survived very well, and sustained very little damage. The contents were flung about but the structure remained sound.

 

It was on the flight path to the airport and very close, so when the airport reopened and aid was beginning to arrive, the huge army planes flew right over us. It was strange lying there in the garden and seeing this huge underbelly of an Indian army plane flying over us. Of course the earth seemed to shake from the planes let alone the earthquakes!

What did we feel when the earthquake struck? We felt the ground move beneath our feet, to the extent that we could not stand up straight, and were knocked to the ground. We felt afraid.
Continue reading “We Heard a Huge Rumbling Sound” — Canadian Volunteers Offer Eye-Witness Account