Justice Camp links rural and urban issues

Mid-sized and close to the country, Peterborough was the obvious host for the Anglican Church of Canada’s Justice Camp on the theme “Shalom: Uniting Us All—Urban and Rural.” An expected 100 campers will visit the east-central Ontario city from Aug. 19 to 24 to learn Christian approaches to justice through workshops, worship, and hands-on learning.

Bikers in the environment immersion group brave the rain at the Diocese of Niagara Justice Camp, May 2010.
Bikers in the environment immersion group brave the rain at the Diocese of Niagara Justice Camp, May 2010.

“I’m unabashedly proud of my city of Peterborough,” said Christian Harvey, Justice Camp co-chair. “I’m really excited for people to see what’s happening in our community in regards to justice and advocacy.”

The metropolitan area of 135,000 is home to Trent University, several large businesses including Pepsico Foods, and a busy arts scene. It also serves as a hub for the surrounding rural and farm communities.

Campers will explore justice issues in both worlds—urban and rural—during their time in the area. Each camper will choose a three-day immersion group and hone in on one subject: migrant workers, sustainable agriculture, violence, water quality, technology, and others.

Back together at camp, the themes will be tied together with worship, Bible study, and theological reflection guided by Sylvia Keesmaat, a University of Toronto professor and organic farmer.

Organizers named the camp “shalom” to capture this sense of intertwined, holistic justice. In the Bible “shalom” is used to describe peace and completeness in a variety of relationships including between God and humans and between countries.

“Often justice issues are dealt with individually,” said Mr. Harvey, a parish youth worker and Trent-Durham youth social justice coordinator. “If Biblical shalom embraces all those things, then our justice work should look to bridge the gap to see how environment, poverty, Aboriginal issues, and others cross over.”

Justice camps have been running in the Anglican Church of Canada since 2005. They are overseen by General Synod’s Partners in Mission and Ecojustice Committee but are organized and run by local planning committees. The five previous camps have included a food justice camp in Winnipeg, Man., an advocacy camp in Ottawa, Ont., and an environment justice camp in Victoria, B.C.

They’ve steadily gained a reputation as excellent events. Co-chair Murray MacAdam, the Diocese of Toronto’s social justice and advocacy consultant, said that the three justice camps he attended have been highlights of his 40-year career in activism.

“They’re inspirational, they really reinforce you in your faith and there’s a lot of learning, hands-on learning,” he said, quickly adding, “They’re also a lot of fun.”

Justice Camps are designed for veteran activists like Mr. MacAdam as well as people new to the scene. The camp aims to have fifty per cent of participants between 16 and 35 as well as fifty per cent from outside the Diocese of Toronto, the official host. People from other denominations are welcome, especially full communion partners from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Camps have the potential to be transformative for all who attend.

Mr. Harvey, 31, said the 2009 Halifax Justice Camp equipped him with practical skills for work he was already doing informally in Peterborough. He learned in unexpected places, including at a community baseball game where people of different income levels. Both co-chairs hope this experience will lead to new insights for others.

“We’re hoping that people will go home equipped with new skills and new enthusiasm for working in their own parish and diocese and their own local communities on the issues they face,” said Mr. MacAdam.

“I think it’s true to say that no one ever leaves a justice camp in quite the same way as when they began.”

The 2012 Justice Camp is financially supported by the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and FaithWorks, the annual appeal for the Diocese of Toronto.

o   Register online now. Camp fees are $375, not including travel. For more information, contact Heather Burton, project manager, by email or phone: (905) 668-1558.

o   Learn more about the camp on their website.

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