Fr. Michael Bechard

Clergy stand tall at counter protest

  • August 31, 2017

When 500 counter-protesters shouted down between 30 and 40 anti-Islam activists in front of City Hall in London, Ont., on Aug. 26, Fr. Michael Bechard proudly stood with the majority wearing a dark suit with a Roman collar.

“I’m not often in a collar, but it was important that day to bring out the symbols of what it means to be a believing community,” Bechard told The Catholic Register .

As chaplain for King’s University College on the campus of the Western University and chair of the Centre for Jewish-Catholic- Muslim Learning, Bechard was part of an ecumenical and interfaith group of clergy who were part of the counter protest when a group called Patriots of Canada Against the Islamization of the West, allied with the European Pegida movement, came to London protesting against Muslim immigration.

The anti-Muslim protesters were accompanied by the Canadian Combat Coalition, which claims it exists to “ preserve what Canada is today,” and Americans dressed in flak jackets calling themselves the Three Percenters. The Three Percenters said they were providing security for the Pegida protesters, who were in fact kept separate from counter protesters by a line of London police on bikes.

The counter protesters represented a broad cross-section of the city, some representing organized groups and many attending as individuals, said Bechard.

“There was a really, really broad demographic,” Bechard said. “There were a lot of old folks and a lot of young moms and dads carrying toddlers in arms. That was one of the things that I found most striking.”

Bechard attended the protest with members of his Christ the King University Parish and St. Michael’s Parish. Coming to the defence of Muslims or anyone who is targeted by hate groups is the Catholic thing to do, Bechard said.

“It’s a Catholic thing for a couple of reasons. We believe quite simply that all people are created in the image and likeness of God, regardless of religion, political orientation, colour, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation,” he said. “We’re all God’s children. We have an obligation then to support and defend our brothers and sisters.”

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