Augustinians launch Toronto social justice centre

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  • January 6, 2011
Emeka BrianTORONTO - Spiritual leaders, agency directors, government officials, community leaders, educators and corporations will be some of the groups gathering together for the Jan. 12 launch of the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice.

Spearheaded by the theology and spirituality of St. Augustine and sponsored by the Order of St. Augustine, the goal of the centre is to open up dialogue between community groups and leaders to make social justice a reality, said Brian Dwyer, director of the centre and a parishioner at St. Brigid’s parish in Toronto.

“We believe that through partnerships and collaboration between groups in the community and the decision makers that a dialogue and agreement (on social justice issues) could occur,” said Dwyer.

The launch is an effort to get the dialogue started and establish partnerships with community leaders. In addition, the centre wants to get community groups that are interested in similar social justice issues working together to approach decision makers.

“There are many people in the community that are working to alleviate poverty, for example, but our experience is that many times these groups don’t talk to each other,” he said. “They individually approach leadership like the government or foundations for help. But our approach would be that we would bring some of these groups together to have a more united front to approach leadership.”

He said that once community groups come together around the issues they want to discuss with leaders, the centre will set up meetings, workshops or focus groups, depending on what is appropriate.

The Order of St. Augustine is a non-governmental organization under the United Nations, said Dwyer. He said that in many parts of the world, such as South America, Germany and France, the order has established “justice and peace commissions.” But since there isn’t one in Canada, the newly established centre will act as the Canadian commission. The centre will be run out of the Augustinian’s headquarters in Marylake in King City, Ont., while the launch takes place at Regis College, the Jesuit graduate school of theology at the University of Toronto.

Along with Dwyer, the centre is the work of Fr. Emeka Obiezu, an Augustinian priest at Holy Cross parish in Toronto, and Dwyer’s wife, Lisa Romano-Dwyer, a Vanier scholar.

One area Dwyer said they’d like to work on is bringing together groups that are in favour of a national homeless strategy, since Canada is one of the few countries that doesn’t have one.

“Our hope is that the issue of social justice and the awareness of it is raised among the people who are providing the services… so they can look at themselves and other groups to collaborate so that changes are made and the future is better. We want action to take place and real things to happen,” he said.

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