Land, social justice and faith will be the focus of the seventh national justice camp, to be hosted by the Anglican diocese of Edmonton this August 15 to 21.
About 100 participants from Anglican and Lutheran churches and other faith communities have been invited to take part in immersion sessions about issues relevant to the province of Alberta, including oil, preservation of national parks, food, farming, healing and reconciliation with aboriginal people, and homelessness.
In the scriptures, land is always linked to community, said the Rev. Rick Chapman, chair of the 2014 justice camp, when asked why land was chosen as a focus for the gathering. The overall theme for the camp is “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land” (Deuteronomy 8:7).
The history of Alberta also revolves around land. “First Nations people had ownership of the land and lived in harmony with it. And then there was first contact-the settlers came and they, too, had a sense of the sacredness of the land and built communities,” said Chapman. “In a way, we’re honouring both the aboriginal thinking around land in that it sustained them, they moved within it and they are thankful for it to the Creator…the people who came from Europe and other places in the world, who settled here and continue to settle here, also understand its sacredness.”
The camp will look at the interrelationship between aboriginal people and the settlers, including the ancestors of settlers, said Chapman, noting that historically, “it hasn’t been the greatest.”
Overall, the camp hopes to “re-imagine what the land would say to us as it offers its gifts to us,” said Chapman. “As the land becomes personified, it says to us, ‘What are you doing? What about the extraction of resources, for instance? What about the care of community, when you know that there have been people who have suffered because of racial tensions between people?’ ”
Participants will choose from seven hands-on immersions: oil and gas industry, urban poverty, aboriginal reconciliation, ecology and conservation, food and farming, arts, and interreligious perspectives.
Dr. John Hiemstra, political science professor at King’s University, Edmonton, will lead participants in the oil and gas industry immersion on a visit to the oil town of Fort McMurray. There will be tours of oil and gas sites and visits to communities dealing with the impact of extraction activities; there will be interactions with people representing different views.
The ecology and conservation immersion will include an exploration of Jasper National Park with Jim Allen, who heads the wildlife management policy, environment and sustainable resource development of the Government of Alberta. There will be interactions with people involved in biodiversity and the care of wild places and species.
The food and farming immersion will “explore the impact of food in our lives” and address the question of “who benefits” from this industry. A visit to a local farm and interaction with urban growers is planned. “The question of who benefits will lead us to examine where our food comes from, who grows and produces it, how it is processed, how it is delivered, who gets food and who doesn’t, and more,” said an information packet about the camp.
The Rev. Canon Travis Enright, chair of the City of Edmonton’s Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, will lead the aboriginal reconciliation immersion, which will use the seven sacred teachings to “explore what it means to be in relationship with ‘the other’ and ‘the land.’ ” The seven sacred teachings are: love, courage, wisdom, respect, humility, honesty and truth. Participants will undergo seven immersive experiences as they construct a teepee at Edmonton’s Fox Farms.
Chapman, who heads the Inner City Pastoral Ministry-an inter-denominational group that includes members of the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic and United churches-will lead the urban poverty immersion. Participants will meet people living in poverty as well as those who advocate for them; there will also be a worship service and shared meal.
In all immersions, Chapman emphasized that participants and leaders will be coming with “an open heart and mind; we’re not going in there with a bias.” He acknowledged that there are strong and varying opinions across Canada on issues such as oil extraction and forestry. But, he said, “I think the western people will have some very interesting insights for many who come from across the nation and from places of learning to explore the immersions that we offer.”
There will also be a strong emphasis on having aboriginal voices in all the immersions. “I think in Alberta,” Chapman said, “[participants] will have a unique opportunity to really engage with the aboriginal community,” a majority of whom represent the Cree and Blackfoot peoples.
The camp hopes to attract participants in the 18 to 40 demographic because it wants to focus on “inter-generational solidarity,” or developing the church’s next generation of leaders in the social justice arena, said Chapman. As the church’s social justice pioneers age and transition into another stage of their lives, there is a growing need to pass the leadership to another group that will carry the movement forward, he said. “We’re hoping that we can develop a strong network of persons who are interested in the gospel response to social justice,” he added.
Accommodations for participants will be at King’s University College, a Christian university located on Edmonton’s east side.
For more information about Justice Camp 2014, click here or contact [email protected] or contact Canon Barbara Burrows, co-ordinator, at 780-439-7344 or the Rev. Rick Chapman, chair, at 780- 934-7144 or via email at [email protected]