July 17, 2015 - 12:00 PM
There are many different spiritual practices in Canada, and many people who act as spiritual leaders. Most religions are universal, so some of the spiritual leaders have been trained in Canada, and others received training elsewhere. Some Kamloops spiritual leaders were born in Canada while others immigrated.
I have a friend who is a Buddhist, who practises a form of Buddhism founded in Thailand. And so, though she is Canadian, her spiritual teachers were trained in Thailand. Meanwhile, her brother practices Falun Gong, a practice with spiritual leaders coming from China.
There are Catholic priests and other Christian ministers in Kamloops have been trained both in Canada and in many other countries.
I know a pastor in town who, while trained as a Lutheran minister in Canada, has spent quite a bit of time working in two countries in Africa. She readily shares how her beliefs were challenged and enriched by encountering different ways Lutheranism is practised there and here.
Sikhs don’t have priests, but they do have Granthis, who are ceremonial readers of their holy book. Some Granthis in Kamloops were born in Canada, while others immigrated. There is no Hindu temple in Kamloops, but there is one in Summerland. As well, there is a Hare Krishna community near Spences Bridge.
There are wiccans, shamans and time travel believers in Kamloops as well.
Anyone is free to start up a spiritual group. The government does not require individuals or groups to ask permission to start up a church, prayer group, temple, retreat, or any other gathering. Individuals are free to provide spiritual support regardless of their training or background.
It is one of the freedoms that we have, which is core to who we are as Canadians, that we are free to choose the religion we wish to practise, and the spiritual leaders to support our practise. Whether we are Buddhist or Catholic, Atheist or Muslim, Druid or Hindu, we each can choose our own path.
There are many countries where this is not the case. Practitioners of Falun Gong face persecution in China. Christians cannot worship openly in Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Rohingya are currently being persecuted in Burma by the Buddhist majority. Bahais, Muslims, Jews, and Christians have all faced persecution at various places around the globe in recent times.
Which is why the Conservatives on a Senate committee’s proposal of training and certifying the credentials of Muslim imams in Canada is so disturbing. The committee justifies their proposal based on the approximate 300 individuals who have been radicalized by jihadist beliefs. In effect they are linking Muslim faith leaders, who provide similar ministerial care as their Christian, Jewish or Buddhist counterparts, with radicalization of individuals.
Canadian Muslim leaders have continually spoken out against jihadist beliefs. To propose that the imams in Canada need to be trained in a certain way to reflect acceptable values of Canada ignores that they have actively been working to counter jihadist beliefs. It also means that the Conservatives on the Senate believe there is a ‘Canadian’ form of Islam, as opposed to perhaps a ‘Canadian’ form of Catholicism.
Individuals who become radicalized choose that path on their own.
Right now in Canada, there are a number of white supremacists groups such as the Aryan Guard, the Ku Klux Klan and the Tri-City Skins which promote a political ideology of an all-white, Protestant nation, and a separation of whites from others in society. Attacks on mosques, synagogues and temples happen across Canada.
Dylann Roofer, the alleged white shooter in the massacre black worshipers in Charleston, Southern Carolina, displayed support of values of white supremacy. Roofer worshipped in a Lutheran church.
Linking all Canadian imams to radicalization of individuals with jihadist beliefs is comparable to linking all white Protestant ministers with individuals who hold white supremacists beliefs.
If an individual imam takes actions which are contrary to a Canadian law, such as inciting hate, then there are laws for this. The same laws apply to everyone else.
But core to our Canadians rights and values is the ability to choose our own spiritual practises and choose our own spiritual support in others.
The Conservatives on the Senate committee are wrong to propose Canadian imams should be trained and certified.
— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015