Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick, as part of the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, gathered in front of Queen's Park April 5 to pray for each of the 107 MPPs in hope of a budget that will help the poor. Photo by Michael Swan

Interfaith coalition prays for each MPP to meet poverty challenge in Ontario's budget

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  • April 5, 2017

With the Ontario budget expected to come down soon, the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) observed its tradition of praying for each of the 107 MPPs by name in the hope of a budget that will deal justly with the poor of the province.

“As a faith community we will always be on the side of reducing poverty and on the side of life,” Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick told the gathering of clergy and activists on the front lawn of Queen’s Park over the noon hour April 5.

Kirkpatrick stressed that government budgets aren’t just about numbers.

“Behind every statistic there is the face of a person who is suffering,” he said. “If the people behind the statistics are not recognized, we give in to the temptation of talking about people in the abstract, as concepts.”

The annual event this year was the culmination of ISARC’S “Billion or Bust” campaign which demands an immediate 10 per cent hike in welfare rates in the 2017 budget.

“A billion is a lot of money, but it’s less than one per cent of the Ontario budget,” said ISARC chair Rev. Susan Eagle of the United Church of Canada. “So we know it’s a matter of (political) will.”

Praying for lawmakers before they pass a budget “is not an effort to manipulate God or other people,” said Eagle.

Eagle stressed that because 2018 is an election year, this year’s budget is likely the last one this Liberal government will be able to actually implement. Election year budgets usually become campaign platforms.

Representatives of all three parties in the legislature came out to greet the ISARC crowd before prayers got underway — John Fraser of the Liberals, Cheri DiNovo of the NDP and Julia Munro of the Progressive Conservatives.

interfaith ontario budget webToronto Anglican Bishop Ryscilla Shaw, right, and ISARC chair Rev. Susan Eagle of the United Church of Canada, second from the right, in front of Queen’s Park April. 5 (Photo by Michael Swan)

Each of the Abrahamic faiths plus a Hindu priest were among the speakers who offered prayers both for the politicians and for the poor. Individual prayers from faith leaders were answered by the crowd chanting together, “We pledge ourselves to justice and pray that this legislature may act justly and wisely.”

Rabbi Ed Elkin of Toronto’s First Narayever Synagogue linked justice for the poor with Jewish observance of Passover, April 10-18. Like Passover, the cause of poverty reduction is about the biblical values of hospitality and freedom, Elkin said.

“It is not only individuals who extend hospitality. It is also societies,” he said. “In this way all who are hungry will be able to come and eat…. That’s how we bring hope and freedom to our world.”

Toronto Anglican Bishop Ryscilla Shaw invoked St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

“The body as a whole only works for us if all the parts are respected and included,” she said.

Shaw led all the Christians in attendance in reciting the "Peace Prayer" of St. Francis.

Rabbi Michael Satz of Holy Blossom Temple cited "The Coal Miner’s Prayer."

“Numberless gifts and blessings have been laid in our cradles as our birthright. Let us then, O Lord, be just and great-hearted in our dealings with fellowmen, sharing with them the fruit of our common labor, acknowledging before Thee that we are but stewards of whatever we possess,” reads the prayer from the Union Prayer Book.

Imam Yusuf Badat quoted the Prophet Muhammad, “None of you truly believes unless you love for others what you love for yourself.”

“Fill us with a passion for the common good,” prayed Rev. Michael Shapcott of the United Church.

Anglican priest Rev. Andrea Budgey recited the “Magnificat," in which Mary praises God for filling the starving with good things and sending the rich away empty.

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