On the third Monday after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, religious leaders in Canada distributed a “message of hope, gratitude and solidarity to all people who call Canada home.” Initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, the three-page message was accompanied by colorful, uplifting photographs and was prepared with the support and coordination of The Canadian Council of Churches and the Canadian Interfaith Conversation. Signatures on the statement take up six pages, including leaders from The Wesleyan Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the president of Institute for Christian Studies, Ronald A. Kuipers, and Darren Roorda, Canadian Ministries Director of the Christian Reformed Church.
“I think a statement like this in Canada goes a long way to saying something about the honour we need to provide each other in Canada around the freedom of religion. In a secular society such as Canada, we need to do better than just stand up for our own faith, but principally help all Canadians see the value of faith, in general. This helps maintain an open door for Christianity,” Roorda told The Banner, in an email. “This communication is also timely because it demonstrates a unified voice that affirms the leaders that God has placed in Canada (as per Romans 13)—and we can affirm the help they are providing and practices they are encouraging as per COVID-19.”
The statement highlights hope—drawn “from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do,” gratitude—for health care professionals and other essential workers providing needed services, and solidarity—urging that Canadians “follow attentively the directions of our public health officials and government leaders.”
Peter Noteboom, general secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches, who also signed the statement, said all of the 26 member denominations of the Council endorsed the letter. The CRC is a member of the Council and also has membership in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which also invited its members to sign. Noteboom said this kind of breadth of signatures from “different religious communities, eccumenical churches, evangelical churches, is unprecedented and historic.”
CRC Communications published the statement on The Network, the CRC’s ministry sharing website, on March 31.