Youth call on government to move forward on commitment for affordable housing
On Thursday afternoon, over 1,200 youth, in Winnipeg for the 2006 Canadian Lutheran Youth Gathering (CLYG 2006), flowed out of the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the main site of the gathering, and into the streets of downtown for a faith walk to the Manitoba Legislative Building to kick-off the start of CLYG 2006. In her opening keynote speech to CLYG 2006 participants, Rev. Kathy Martin, told the youth, “at this gathering we are going to do things differently. We’re going to head out there and make a difference.”
Participants were told to put their faith into action and, “hit the road and tell people what [they] are doing here [at the gathering] and how [they] are going to make a difference,” said Rev. Martin as she reflected on her own faith journey and the different twists, turns and detours that she has taken to arrive where she is today.
The faith walk, the first of six large group gatherings at the four-day event, took participants to five different stopping points along the walk before they reached the Manitoba Legislative grounds. In groups of approximately 200, participants heard from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) Synod Bishops who each spoke on a topic fitting with the “Detour” theme of the large group gathering.
Underneath an overpass leading out of downtown Winnipeg, with the sounds of Thursday evening’s rush hour traffic heard overhead, at his stop along the faith walk, British Columbia Synod Bishop Gerhard Preibisch asked youth, “how would you like to sleep here tonight?”
Noting that the location where youth had stopped was a common spot for the homeless to sleep, Bishop Preibisch shared statistics and an overview of a day in the life of a homeless person. Those gathered at the stop were surprised to hear that there are over 200,000 homeless people in Canada. Bishop Preibisch challenged the youth to find out what is being done to help those that are homeless in their own cities and to demand their local leaders and government officials take action. “Remind our leaders that all people are created in the image of God. God loves every man, woman and child. They are to be valued,” Bishop Preibisch concluded.
Chanting, “One out of five kids are poor, Harper what are you waiting for!” the youth then signed postcards asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to recognize that, “the poor and homeless have often been treated as though they are invisible.” The postcards advised the Prime Minister that, “Dreaming, talking or even planning for change is not enough. It’s time for action. This crisis is real. Our brothers and sisters need our help. We are asking you to make affordable housing a priority for your government and our nation!” As they walked on to the next stop on their walk, youth deposited their signed postcards to the Prime Minister in a mailbox for delivery.
At the final stop before they reached the legislative building, taking a break from the hot sunny rays that accompanied them on their journey, youth took shelter in the shade and gathered around Saskatchewan Synod Bishop Cindy Halmarson by sitting on the cool grass. “It’s nice to take a break and sit down,” noted Bishop Halmarson, “But we can’t sit for too long – there’s too much going on.”
“Being a church in mission means we have to pay attention to all the needs around us,” she continued. Bishop Halmarson listed off a number of challenges that the ELCIC has faced in its existence, mentioning specifically the struggles over worship, the use of inclusive language, the ordination of women and the call to social justice. “When we move forward, do we hold back? We can’t be sitting, idling our engines,” she continued drawing on metaphors of service that have become commonly heard at the Full Serve gathering. “Jesus sets the pace, the path and the direction. So we can run and finish the race.”
Gathering on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building, youth took part in the culmination of their faith walk and heard speeches by ELCIC’s National Bishop Raymond Schultz and the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land, The Rt. Rev. Don Phillips. Both leaders referenced a letter sent by four church leaders back in March 2006 which noted, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper should act immediately to ensure that funds designated for affordable housing, $1.6 billion over two years, are allocated as promised before they are simply reverted to debt reduction and have little effect on addressing social and infrastructure deficits behind Canada’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis.” Four Canadian church leaders – National Bishop Raymond Schultz, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Rev. Peter Short of the United Church of Canada and the Rev. Henry Hess of the Christian Reformed Church of North America – all signed the letter to the Prime Minister.
In the final part of the first large group gathering, four youth took to the stage to read their own version of a letter to Prime Minister Harper and ask for affordable housing to be made available to all. “One out of every five children in Canada lives in poverty. We care that our friends do not have the same opportunities as we do. In Winnipeg there is a house that has been built by youth [a reference to the Mission Possible: Building Hope house that CLYG 2006 youth have been raising funds for since the 2004 youth gathering]. Dreaming, talking or planning for change is not enough. We need action. We call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to ensure that everyone in Canada has a home.”
A number of smaller gatherings and events took place on the first evening of the youth gathering, which concluded with a late night worship service. On Friday, CLYG 2006 participants will take part in two more large group gatherings. The first, taking place in the morning, will build on the theme, “En Route”, which is meant to show participants how, “God designs us to serve”. Later in the evening, youth will participate in “Wrong Way”, the third large group gathering which is meant to show participants how, “God’s service goes against the flow”. Youth will also be at the The Forks, a popular meeting location in Winnipeg where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet, for a BBQ and special event titled “Road Trip”, in the afternoon.
Organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, this national gathering is aimed at youth ages 14-19 and includes Lutherans and Anglicans from across Canada. Special guests at the gathering will include individuals from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland (ELCI).
For more information, please contact:
Trina Gallop, Manager of Communications
302-393 Portage Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 3H6
204.984.9172 / 204.782.8618
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