Kairos executive director Pat Steenberg’s challenge is to find a way to meld 10 groups into one.
Pat Steenberg’s office at Kairos is all dangling wires, empty shelves, boxes and stacks of papers – bearing witness to the challenge of combining 10 social-justice agencies into one. Executive director since July 1, 2001, Ms. Steenberg and 24 staff are perched in rabbit-warren quarters in a struggling neighborhood in east-end Toronto until offices in another location are renovated.
“We are building an organization, building an infrastructure from different focuses, different budgets, different people. It’s been an enormous exercise in good faith on behalf of the staff and the people who support them,” Ms. Steenberg said in an interview.
Kairos, subtitled Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, was born early in 2001 after several churches, including the Anglican Church of Canada, realized that church resources were stressed by maintaining membership in several groups pursuing such initiatives as Third-World debt cancellation and land rights for indigenous people.
Kairos’ major campaign currently is called Turning the Tables, which carries forward the work of the Jubilee initiative – a multi-church effort to persuade developed countries and institutions to cancel debt owed by the poorest nations in the world. The three-year Jubilee project ended in 2001.
Turning the Tables, which refers to the story of Christ overturning the moneychangers’ tables, is aimed at “turning the tables on the way people think of debt,” said Ms. Steenberg.
The campaign wants to change the notion of debt as something poorer nations owe to one that considers “what we owe aboriginal people, the south, future generations, the earth,” she said. The campaign uses an “invoice,” she said, “to call to account the leaders of the G-8 (industrial nations) for the debts we owe.”
Ms. Steenberg, 54, arrived at Kairos (a Greek word meaning “the right time” that the coalition also calls “the time that God gives to act”) from a career that included no church work. She was, most recently, clerk for 12 years of the standing committee of finance at the House of Commons in Ottawa – a job that involved coordinating the committee.
Another Kairos activity is monitoring and reporting on the impact of Canadian government and corporate interests abroad, such as Talisman Energy’s oil drilling activities in war-ravaged Sudan. The organization also is involved in development work in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, working with southern churches to find and support local projects.
The agencies now under the roof of Kairos were: the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, the Canada-Asia Working Group, the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice, Inter-Church Action for Development Relief and Justice, the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America, the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees, PLURA, the Task Force on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility and Ten Days for Global Justice.