This year, the Canadian Religious Conference was held at the Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel from October 5-7, 2011. Among the more than 200 people who took part were seven SNJM’s: Sisters Claudette Bastien, Aline Ratelle, Phyllis Douillard, Dorothy Guha, (associate) of the Solidarity Group of Quebec, Jacqueline Aubry, Elisabeth Giroux, of the Mission Sector and Yvonne Massicotte from Manitoba.
On October 6, the first speaker, Mary Evelyn Tucker, PHD, founder and co-director of Yale University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology, demonstrated the disasters which have occurred since the economic globalization: destruction of the environment, endemic poverty and wealth placed in the hands of only a small number of people.
There are also positive effects: ideal democracy, the desire to reduce poverty and to reduce war and insecurity. At present, our planet is in danger; we become aware and in conscience, we must act. Large steps have been taken: documents by the last Popes on social justice, the Earth Charter Initiative...Religious communities can offer hope to our world and we should not be afraid to assert our values.
The 2nd speaker, Michel Venne, a renowned journalist and founder and director of Montreal’s 'Institut du Nouveau Monde' and a man of action, in his turn, stressed: “Environment and Social Justice: we must act”. He spoke about the achievements and impact made by the 'Institut'. Summer schools have gathered more than 3000 participants since 2004. The program: « À go, On change le monde » gives young people ways of creating businesses with a social vocation.
A partnership with the Caisse Desjardins supports 200 enterprising social projects led by youth in Quebec. One quarter of the young people from the summer schools are recent immigrants...This summer school has become the most important youth event in Québec. The magazine «À go » is a reference for material on social enterprise. The youth declaration and the site http://www.moijesigne.org (in French and English) have given thousands of citizens a desire to get involved.
October 7th was dedicated to working in teams. We tried to see how to give feet and hands to the deep values which animate us. Each of the 26 teams gave their list of suggestions to the organizers.
I remember a few of the suggestions: to encourage and support organizations which are fighting for a better environment: «Eau Secours », « Development and
Peace » among others; develop international links; witness to our hope for a better world.
The Congress ended with a commissioning. Each member signed a solemn declaration of commitment from which I quote a paragraph.
"We commit ourselves to do our part to reduce harm to the environment, to fight against poverty through means which we will undertake in our own lives, to pressure governments and industries and to be in solidarity with those who are most affected...
We came away from the gathering enriched by the experience and from the sharing. We were happy to have received the complete text of presentations given by the two speakers: Mary Evelyn Tucker and Michel Venne. Thunderous applause emphasized everyone’s satisfaction.
Sister Aline Ratelle, snjm