Stolpersteine commemorates Jewish victims

My wife Martha and I spent September 2012 in Europe with about 10 days of that time in Berlin. We rented a small apartment in an area called Scheunenviertel not far from the city centre. We discovered that this neighbourhood had been a centre of Jewish population in the city prior to the Second World War. We were just a few blocks from the gold-domed Neue Synagoge, which had been inaugurated in 1866, destroyed by allied bombing in 1943, and later rebuilt as a museum that opened in 1995. There were an estimated 560,000 Jews in Germany (160,000 of them in Berlin) when Hitler came to power in 1933. Most were either driven into exile or killed. Today there are 100,000 Jews in the country, about 10,000 in Berlin.

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Murray Thomson, peace activist at 90

Murray Thomson at 90,  Koozma Tarasoff photo

If Murray Thomson wasn’t a pacifist you might call him a happy warrior. The moving force behind many worthy peace endeavours, he will soon turn 90 and more than 130 of his friends gathered recently in Ottawa to celebrate. There was a dinner with much good humour and music, some of it supplied by Thomson on his violin, but predictably the event was also a fund raiser and was preceded by a panel and discussion about the best way to get rid of all nuclear weapons. An american-based organization called Ploughshares Fund (no relative of Canada’s Project Ploughshares) estimates that there are about 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world. We know that nine countries have them with Iran threatening to join the club. Thomson, along with two other elders of the peace movement, has come up with an interesting new proposal. The three are recipients of the Order of Canada (OC), our most distinguished award for public service. Ernie Regehr is a Mennonite and the co-founder (with Thomson) of Project Ploughshares.  Doug Roche is a former editor of Catholic newspapers, a Conservative MP between 1972 and 1984, Canada’s UN Ambassador for Disarmament between 1984 and 1989, and later an independent in the Senate. In 2011, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Dennis Gruending’s Pulpit and Politics in Ebook format

Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life

Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Pubic Life is now available in an Ebook format. The book is a provocative exposé of …

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Development and Peace knee-capped by Catholic bishops

Archbishop Richard Smith, CCCB President

The Catholic aid agency Development and Peace (D and P) is in turmoil after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) pressured the organization in  September to scuttle an educational post card campaign just as the material was about to be distributed. The postcard, which was to be sent to the Prime Minister, asked that he have a parliamentary committee undertake a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance. This is hardly the stuff of revolt but the CCCB said that the campaign was too political and would cause division in the church and among bishops. So the CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith asked that the project be withdrawn and D and P’s national council decided to follow the advice.

It would appear that the CCCB’s decision that the fall campaign should be shut down may have been made without the knowledge of bishops who sit on the CCCB’s standing committee on Development and Peace. The Catholic Register newspaper quoted two of those bishops saying that they had not been contacted directly about the ultimatum to Development and Peace.

Bitter reaction

That decision has resulted in D and P staff resignations, criticism of the organization’s management team and elected National Council, and accusations from D and P supporters who accuse the CCCB of becoming too cozy with the Conservative government.

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Development and Peace spat a many-layered story

Catholic aid organization Development and Peace

I posted to this blog recently about how the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops (CCCB) pressured the Catholic aid agency Development and Peace (D and P) to suspend a fall 2012 educational campaign that involved sending postcards to the Prime Minister. The cards asked that he have a parliamentary committee undertake a national consultation on the future of Canadian development assistance. The bishops said the postcard campaign was too political and would cause division in the church and among bishops. They asked that the project be withdrawn and D and P’s national council decided to follow the advice.

This has resulted in bitter accusations from D and P supporters who accuse the bishops of becoming too cozy with the Conservative government. This revolt against the Catholic hierarchy is virtually unprecedented and it is uncertain where this dissatisfaction will lead. I indicated in my previous posting that this is a many layered story and that I would provide some background to place the controversy into a context.

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Remembrance Day, T.T. Shields and war

War Memorial Ottawa

On the eve of Remembrance Day, I attended a Brahms concert in the century-old Dominion Chalmers United Church in Ottawa. As I walked around during the intermission, I found myself looking at memorial plaques on the walls to honour the church’s young men who died in the First and Second World Wars. Coincidentally, the church’s first service was offered in 1914, the year in which the First World War began. I tried to imagine the scene that year and particularly what might have been said about the war from the pulpit in Canadian churches. I recalled a series of sermons by the Reverend Thomas Todhunter Shields that I had discovered while researching my book Great Canadian Speeches. It was all fire and brimstone in favour of the fight.

When Britain declared war against Germany in August 1914, Canada and the other members of the Empire were automatically involved even though they had not been consulted beforehand. Canadians of British origin were decidedly in favour of supporting the war, saying that Canadians had a duty to fight on behalf of Motherland and Empire. Many people who lived in Quebec and others such as my grandparents, who had emigrated from Central Europe, were much less enthusiastic.

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CRA hassles Canadian Mennonite magazine

Richard Benner, Canadian Mennonite

The editor of Canadian Mennonite magazine says that he was puzzled, saddened and disheartened to get a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency warning that his publication was being too political and could lose its charitable status as a result. “I took it personally,” writes  editor Richard Benner in the magazine’s November 12 edition.

The letter from a CRA bureaucrat was dated July 23 and it said: “It has come to our attention that recent issues of the organization’s monthly periodical entitled Canadian Mennonite, have contained editorials and/or articles that appear to promote opposition to a political party, or to candidates for public office.” The letter went on to say that, “Registered charities that engage in partisan political activities jeopardize their charitable status and can be subject to revocation.”

Canadian Mennonite is registered as a charity so it can receive funds from Mennonite Church Canada and area churches. It can provide tax receipts to donors.

Offending articles

Benner told CBC News that after receiving the letter he called the CRA and asked for examples of what the agency considered to be offending articles. They cited two editorials and four articles.

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Does Canada need a Department of Peace?

I was one of the speakers at a public consultation held in Ottawa on November 3 by the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI). The group has been advocating for federal government legislation to create a Canadian Department of Peace. The rationale is that the Department of National Defence is devoted to planning and prosecuting war but that we should also have a Department of Peace with a minister at the cabinet table. His or her department would be responsible for providing a peace lens in all federal government activities as well as promoting peace building activities in Canada and abroad.

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