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Canadians are called to bring religion into public sphere

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Cardus makes sure faith is part of Canada’s 150th celebration
By Evan Boudreau
Canadian Catholic News

Photo Caption: Andrew Bennet, senior fellow of Cardus and chair of the Cabinet of Canadians, spoke about the need to return religion to the public domain, especially during the 150th birthday celebration of Canada.

As the nation prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, think-tank heavyweight Cardus is calling on Canadians to bring religion back into the public square.

“Faith is still a dominant feature in the lives of many Canadians and it certainly has been throughout Canadian history so . . . To celebrate 150 years of Confederation that story has to be told,” said Andrew Bennett, a Cardus senior fellow and chair of the Cabinet of Canadians, a group of academic, religious and business leaders put together to lead the faith discussion.

“To not talk about religious faith when we speak about Canadian history is to have a very serious blind spot. Millions of Canadians have lived and breathed and built this country with a keen eye to their religious faith.”

To help Canadians share stories about their faith, Cardus has put together a project called Faith in Canada 150, consisting of a series of initiatives with specific target audiences.

In November, Bennett, Canada’s former Ambassador of Religious Freedom, launched Faith in Canada 150’s youth-driven arm.

The event, dubbed the Millennial Network, drew about 60 youth, aged 19 to 35, who heard from four guest speakers: a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim and a Bahai.  The goal was to change perceptions about religion’s place in society.

“Many of us have convinced ourselves that religious expression is a private matter,” said Bennett. “It is important for those of us who are faithful to recognize that we do have a place in the public square. Religious expression is not just a private matter.”

He added that in order to have “a genuinely diverse society we need to give suitable space in the public square for religious expression and for people to engage with their faith.”

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, one of 40 members of the Cabinet of Canadians, praised Cardus for capitalizing on Canada’s 150 birthday as a means to celebrate faith and religious diversity.

“I am delighted that Cardus has initiated the Faith in Canada 150 project,” he said. “As we celebrate this milestone in Canada’s history it is an appropriate time to highlight and celebrate the role of faith as a cornerstone for so many Canadians.”

The initiative offers an opportunity to “reflect on the role of faith in our country,” while celebrating “the simple and extraordinary contributions made every day from coast to coast” by the nation’s faithful.

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