Faith and Civic Engagement

Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc shared some perspectives on how faith in action helps to build neighbourhoods and cities at Theology on Tap on March 24.

Mr. Mihevc began by expressing concern about the rise of secularism in Toronto starting in the 1980s. At this time, people tended to look inward, with a view to preserving themselves and their faith communities instead of looking outward and changing the world.

However, he sees hope in a new organization called Faith in the City, which brings together leaders from various faith traditions who want to engage their congregations in city building.

Mr. Mihevc recognized the importance of faith communities in delivering social services. He is involved in a project that will document their work in order to facilitate greater communication and co-ordination.

The fight against a casino in Toronto is one example of faith in action. Leaders from diverse faiths came together, became engaged, and produced the first major interfaith statement on a public policy issue in Toronto. The casino was defeated and Toronto avoided many social problems that it would have caused.

Other social problems remain. Years of bad public policy has resulted in economic disparity. Poverty in the inner suburbs is growing. Some parents have to juggle multiple minimum wage jobs and do not have time to effectively raise their children. Affordable housing is scarce.

People of faith believe in the common good. We can achieve more when we come together than any one of us can individually. Together, we can play two important roles in addressing urban problems. Firstly, we need to concern ourselves with the effective delivery of social services and dealing with the fallout of social policy gone awry. Secondly, we need to support social justice by figuring out how to put a faith lens on public policy questions.

We need to look at the city from the perspective of the poor in order to make good policy.

by a Faith Connections Volunteer