Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity

A Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 30, 2020, more than 80 religious leaders from across Canada issued a common message to all who call Canada home, expressing the need for hope, gratitude and solidarity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This ecumenical and interfaith message is a response by religious leaders from across Canada which was initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus with the support and coordination of The Canadian Council of Churches and the Canadian Interfaith Conversation

Canadians are experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19 in what has become a rapidly evolving crisis. Understandably, this crisis has brought about feelings of anxiety, apprehension and fear. Critical elements of our daily lives are being thrown into uncertainty: health, employment, financial security, recreational activities, as well as our ability to gather as worshiping communities. In view of these difficulties, we as religious leaders wish to bring forward a message of hope, gratitude and solidarity to all people who call Canada home.

A Message of Hope

We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives. Likewise, hope provides courage to face the burdens we bear and the ability to look onwards toward the dawning of a new day. In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished.

Family

Love, which gives life its fullest meaning, continues to seek out the common good in spite of individual difficulties. Acts of kindness can bring us closer in spirit, despite the requirements of physical distancing. Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times.

Canada has gone through several difficult and painful experiences in its history. When current and former generations have responded to these challenges, many were empowered by unwavering hope as well as human and spiritual resilience. For religious believers, this hope takes on a special and unique dimension. It assures us of the caring embrace of the Creator, a sacred relationship sustained by prayer, and which flows into our human relationships whereby we care for one another and bear each other’s burden.

Yet, hope brings for everyone a promise of renewal, even in the midst of human suffering. Hope assures us that this affliction too shall pass.

A Message of Gratitude

During this time of crisis, we as religious leaders wish to offer words of appreciation and gratitude. Health care professionals are providing unfailing and dedicated service under stressful and difficult circumstances. They provide for us a powerful witness of care, expertise and service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also the increased risk of exposure to infection along with other hardships being experienced by so many others. For instance, while the rest of society rightly heeds the precautions of physical distancing, many remain at work in grocery stores, pharmacies and factories.

Students, the middle-aged, and those close to retirement are fulfilling a variety of essential front-line jobs in the supply chain, ensuring that stores remain open, shelves remain stocked, and goods are delivered so that others can have food, medicines and other essentials for their families and communities. We express a deep appreciation and gratitude for these workers.

Governments across Canada as well as religious leaders are bearing particularly heavy burdens in
steering our communities through this calamity. It is comforting to see that in such demanding times, political differences are being set aside to serve the common good. This too is a witness of hope for Canadians. For all these acts of generosity and dedication, let us add our expressions of gratitude for the important work of the diverse leaders of our country.

A Message of Solidarity

We urge all people in Canada to listen and follow attentively the directions of our public health officials and government leaders. We, as religious leaders, pledge to lead by example. We all must act together in confronting this virus. While everyone is vulnerable during this crisis, let us not forget those in our society who, prior to COVID-19, were already vulnerable to health and social ailments. As religious leaders, we raise our collective voices to highlight the necessity for greater attention to the needs of the homeless, the incarcerated, the elderly and those already suffering from social isolation. We remember too those people, especially women and children who face abuse and violence, who are not safe at home and may suffer additional abuse and violence as stress increases. We must never overlook or exclude these groups from our planning, preparedness and response to this pandemic. We are particularly mindful of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, including isolated Northern communities, who were already facing pre-existing challenges and for whom the COVID-19 outbreak could prove singularly devastating. Likewise, we need to remember the needs and vulnerabilities of the many refugees and migrant workers who have come to Canada seeking safety and security.

This is a time for human solidarity. We all need to pull together.

Charitable organizations in Canada will face greater challenges during this time of crisis and will need greater assistance from governments so as to continue their vital work. This is a time for human solidarity. We all need to pull together. It is essential to carry out the practical requirements to limit the spread of this virus. It is also important to maintain a posture of attentive caring towards our neighbour. This includes care and solidarity for the global community who face this crisis with far fewer resources than those accessible to Canada. This is a time for us to draw closer to God.

Religion and spirituality can indeed contribute to building people up, to providing a sense of meaning, inner strength, new horizons and openness of hearts. As religious leaders, we wish to emphasize, especially in times like these, the power and importance of prayer. We earnestly pray for healing, for the continued efforts to relieve human suffering, and for perseverance throughout these challenging times. As history records these moments for our country’s future, let us pray that, in the face of COVID-19, we respond with an abundance of hope, gratitude and solidarity, trusting in the loving and ever merciful God, the source of all hope.

Image of arrow pointing downA Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Image of arrow pointing downMessage aux Canadiennes et Canadiens de leaders religieux au Canada au sujet de la pandémie de COVID-19

Religious Leaders

Rev. Kenesha Blake-Newell
Itinerant Elder (Grant AME)
African Methodist
Episcopal Church

Farhan Iqbal
Missionary
Ahmadiyya Muslim
Jama’at Canada

Rev. Shane B. Janzen
Archbishop
The Anglican Catholic
Church of Canada

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

Rev. Fr. John Benjamin Vic Paradero, OMHS
Rev. Fr. Jose Mark John
Jamili, OMHS

Apostolic Catholic Church of Canada

Rev. Wesley E. Mills
President
Apostolic Church of Pentecost
of Canada, Inc.

His Grace Bishop
Abgar Hovakimyan

Primate
Armenian Holy Apostolic Church Diocese of Canada

Mobeen Khaja, O Ont.
President
Association of Progressive
Muslims of Canada

Kevin Schular
Executive Director
Baptist General Conference
of Canada

Charles Mashinter
Executive Director
Be In Christ Church – Canada

Lee Nicholas-Pattillo
President
Canadian Association for
Baptist Freedoms

MGen Guy J.J. Chapdelaine, OMM, CD, QHC
Chaplain General
Canadian Armed Forces

Rev. Dr. Terry G. Smith
Executive Director
Canadian Baptist Ministries

Dr. Peter Reid
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada

Rev. Tim McCoy
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of
Ontario and Quebec

Rev. Rob Ogilvie
Executive Minister
Canadian Baptists of Western Canada

Dr. Adriana Bara
Executive Director
Canadian Centre for Ecumenism

+Richard Gagnon
Archbishop of Winnipeg, President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Elton Da Silva
National Director
Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

Rev. Stephen Kendall
President
Pastor Peter Noteboom
General Secretary
The Canadian Council of Churches

Imam Mohamed Refaat Abo Onar
President
Canadian Council of Imams

Nina Karachi-Khaled
President of the National Board
Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Rev. David McGrew
National Director
Canadian Fellowship of Churches and Ministers

Pandit Roopnauth Sharma
President
Canadian Multifaith Federation

Zul Kassamali
Co-chair
Aileen Van Ginkel
Co-chair
Canadian Interfaith Conversation

Rabbi Reuven Poupko
Rabbi Baruch Friedman-Kohl
Rabbi Debra Landsberg
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld
Co-chairs
Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, an affiliate of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

Beverly Shepard
Presiding Clerk
Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

Rev. Dr. David Hearn
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada

Rev. Ann Stainton
Moderator
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Canada

The Rev Dr. Darren Roorda
Canadian Ministries Director
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Elder Michel J. Carter
Elder John N. Craig
Elder James E. Evanson
Elder Michael R. Murray
Area Seventies
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Rev. Dr. Ian Fitzpatrick
National Director
Church of the Nazarene Canada

Kerry Richards
President, Canada East
Community of Christ

Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, CM, Ph.D
Rabbi Emeritus and spiritual leader
Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa

Rev. Dr. David Schrader
National Pastor
Congregational Christian Churches in Canada

Netta Phillet
Coordinator
Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education & Action

H.G. Anba Mina
Bishop Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada
H.G. Anba Makar
Bishop of Goshen, Egypt;
Papal Vicar in the Archdiocese of Toronto
H.G Abba Boulos
Bishop of Ottawa, Montreal, and Eastern Canada
The Coptic Orthodox Church in Canada

L.K. (Rev. Fr.) Messale Engeda
Head priest and Administrator
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada

Dr. David P. Lavigne
Bishop
The Evangelical Christian
Church in Canada

Bruce J. Clemenger
President
The Evangelical Fellowship
of Canada

Dr. William Taylor
Executive Director
Evangelical Free Church
of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Canada

Tim Dyck
Executive Director
Evangelical Mennonite
Conference

Rev. Steven F. Jones
National President
The Fellowship of Evangelical
Baptist Churches in Canada

Steve Falkiner
President
Foursquare Gospel
Church of Canada

Bill Hall
President
Grace Communion International Canada

Philip Bryant
Executive Director
Grace Fellowship Canada

His Eminence Archbishop Sotirios
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada

Pandit Roopnauth Sharma
President
Hindu Federation of Canada

Rev. Paul McPhail
General Secretary
Independent Assemblies of God International Canada

Dr. Ronald A. Kuipers
President
Institute for Christian Studies

Halil Yurtsever
Intercultural Dialogue Institute

Brian A. Hawes
President
Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy in the Correctional Service of Canada

Imam Ilyas Sidyot
Grand Mosque of Saskatoon
Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) Inc.

Jennifer Henry
Executive Director
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Naj Mankal
President
Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario

Imam Zubair Sidyot
Lethbridge Muslim Association (Alberta)

Belle Jarniewski
President
Manitoba Multifaith Council

Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa
Bishop, Diocese of North America And Europe
Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Doug Klassen
Executive Minister
Mennonite Church Canada

Zul Kassamali
President
National Alliance for the Advancement of Pluralistic Society

Muneeb Nasir
Co-Chair
National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee

His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée
Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada and the Archdiocese of Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Rev. Dr. David R. Wells
General Superintendent
The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada

Rev. Terry W. Snow
General Superintendent
Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland & Labrador

Rev. Amanda Currie
Moderator
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Imam Irshad Unia
Prince Albert Muslim Association (Saskatchewan)

The Rev. Marijke Strong
Executive Secretary
Regional Synod of Canada
Reformed Church in America

Pascale Frémond
President
Religions for Peace Canada

Commissioner Floyd J. Tidd
Territorial Commander
The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory

The Most Rev. Zenji Nio
Abbot, Samurai Buddhist Temple & Museum
Tokyo, Japan & Bay Street Corridor, Toronto

Rabbi David Seed
President
Toronto Board of Rabbis

The Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg
for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada

His Eminence, The Most Rev. Metropolitan Yurij (Kalistchuk)
Archbishop of Winnipeg and the Central Eparchy
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Rev. David Rowley
General Secretary
The Union of French Baptist Churches in Canada

Rev. Brian K. Magnus
Bishop
The United Brethren Church in Canada

The Right Rev. Richard Bott
Moderator
Nora Sanders
General Secretary
The United Church of Canada

David Ruis
National Director
Vineyard Canada

Pastor Mike Stone
Executive Director
Vision Ministries Canada

Rev. Dr. Eric R. Hallett
District Superintendent, Central Canada District
The Wesleyan Church

Venerable Dr. Bhante Saranapala
West End Buddhist Temple and Meditation Centre

Jaskaran Singh Sandhu
Executive Director
World Sikh Organization of Canada