Justice camp helps people get their heads and hearts around social justice aissues. So says Bishop Sue Moxley of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, which hosted the fourth annual event, Aug. 9 to 15.
An initiative of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Partners in Mission and Ecojustice Committee, this year’s camp, themed “Finding Abundance,” invited more than 60 people to meet poverty-related issues face to face. Through small-group visits to different places in the diocese, including Africville, fishing villages and soup kitchens, here’s some of what they learned.
A world apart
Bishop Moxley was part of a group learning about Africville, a community in Halifax settled in the 1840s by black refugees who came to Nova Scotia from the U.S. to escape slavery. Although residents managed to establish a church by 1849 and to open an elementary school in 1883, the city never accepted them. Instead, the community was divided by railway tracks and surrounded with factories, sewage disposal pits and slaughter houses. In 1962, city council ordered that Africville be demolished, forcing residents to relocate elsewhere in Halifax. In 1996, Africville was designated a national historic site, but today it is a dogs off-leash park. During a presentation about Africville, one young woman described dogs urinating on a memorial with her family’s name on it.
In Digby, N.S., clam fishers told another group about the challenges their community faces. The group visited a soup kitchen and heard the frustrations of people who can’t make ends meet. Cydney Proctor, one of the local organizers and a second-year student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, was particularly impressed by “the radical hospitality” of the people she met. In the Annapolis Valley, people who couldn’t afford food “got us dinner,” Ms. Proctor said.
Meeting the marginalized
Jen Schwartz, a 23-year-old graduate from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, travelled to Prince Edward Island to meet people living with disabilities. A barbecue hosted by parishioners at St. Paul’s church in Charlottetown also brought together people who are homeless and who are dealing with addictions. “You don’t really appreciate the journeys…until you have a face to put with the story,” said Ms. Schwartz.
Walk a mile in their shoes
Canon Maylanne Maybee, General Synod’s ecojustice co-ordinator, stayed in Halifax with a group looking at urban poverty. The group walked the city streets for a day to better understand what it is like to be without food or shelter and invited the people they met-service providers, people waiting in lines, people living on the street-to a baseball game and barbecue. “We all felt the difference; we weren’t handing out and they weren’t receiving,” said Ms. Maybee. “It was very transformative and enlightening.”
Hope for the future
Chris Miller, a second-year theology student at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, travelled to Cape Breton with his group. Islanders told them about struggles since the coal mining industry disappeared. They also heard how the high cost of boats, licences and technology are obstacles for the next generation of fishermen. Still, Mr. Miller said he left with a sense of hope for the people who welcomed them with so much kindness. “There’s a hope for something new to come,” he said. “They’re…talking with children and younger people to emphasize the importance of literacy and education.”
Aaron Emery, a York University student in Toronto, travelled with his group to the Coady Institute at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. At a banquet reflecting global hunger, 30 of the 35 participants dined on rice and water, three received macaroni and cheese, and two ate roast beef.
The group also learned about the Coady Institute’s 50 years of promoting community-based development and the history of the Antigonish Movement for economic and social justice that began during the 1920s. “A lot of the conversations that you hear around fair trade and local empowerment…was happening in these fishing villages in northern Nova Scotia 80 years ago,” said Mr. Emery.