The Interfaith Prayer Vigil began on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, with prayers from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian-Universalist leaders.The vigil is a persistent reminder for Ontario parliamentarians not to forget the poor among us ISARC chairperson Susan Eagle welcomed all to the prayer vigil; Brice Balmer lit the vigil candle; Anglican Bishop Colin Johnson made comments and led in prayer; Rabbi Aaron Levy chanted Jewish prayers; Murat Ortanca offered the Muslim prayer.
The vigils are being organized by the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) and include coalition members and other persons of faith. ISARC has provided a religious voice for Ontario’s marginalized people for 23 years. The vigils are being held as a public witness to the collective concern of faith communities about the swelling ranks of the poor during Ontario’s deepening recession and the need for a strong response, says the coalition. “The budget will be a litmus test of their commitment to the strategy,” says coalition spokesperson Brice Balmer.The budget is expected to come down on March 25.
Totally absent were the five Ontario Roman Catholic bishops. This is more than embarrassing.There are probably a million Catholics in the Toronto area and none could find the time to join this small act of solidarity.
The noon hour prayers were led by Brice Balmer (Mennonite), Jeffrey Brown (Unitarian-Universalist), Paul Hansen (Catholic), and Aaron Levy (Orthodox Judaism). Several people joined the group because they read the previous day’s Toronto Star which featured a glowing profile of Anglican bishop Colin Johnson’s sterling leadership in the area of poverty.
Sadly this non-presence reflects the old adage, become new again in the past two decades of Catholic exceptionalism,”If we are not leading the parade, we’re not in it.”
Particularly inspiring however is the presence this Wednesday of the Sisters of Providence of Kingston who are renting a bus to take their turn in the cold and the damp. Also kudos to Holy Cross Catholic high school in Kingston for making the journey.