Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two Dinners, One Meal.

Back in the saddle. A beautiful/restful holiday this summer included a long 8yr overdue honeymoon with my amazing wife Joanna (La Ville-Lumière, what they say about you is true). 

Last Thursday I attended two dinners in one evening. 

Dinner #1...was at the Ritz-Carlton. Unfortunately I did not get to eat here thanks to the $1000 price-tag.  Even if I had the money the police would not have let me anywhere near, given my intentions to protest. The CCA was honouring the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, with their statesman of the year award. If dinner wasn't enough for you, a yearly $25 000 gold sponsorship would have got you a private reception with the president and his ministers.  This would be money well invested if you were looking to take advantage of Canada's newly minted free trade agreement with Colombia.

our new Toronto council banner debuts on the sidewalk.

By all means let's trade with Colombia. But let's make sure that trade is fair. Let's make sure the bounty of resources that has Canadian corporations like Barrick Gold drooling at the new trade agreement (Peter Munk was honoured the same night with a lifetime business achievement award), doesn't lead us to turn a blind eye to stories like that of murdered indigenous leader Kimy Pernia Domico, who has yet to see justice.

For the rest of us concerned about human rights being trumped by trade, we had to stay on the sidewalk outside.  About forty people gathered here and it was a nice opportunity to unveil our new diocesan council D&P banner.  Development and Peace supports many projects and partners in Colombia. In fact as we were gathered, there were D&P members in Colombia visiting these partners.  This is a country with more internally displaced people than any other in the world with the exception of the Sudan - 5 Million. Our partner Justicia y Paz works with communities who have watched countless people murdered to make way for the expansion of african oil palm plantations (to feed our cars with ethanol). They have helped stop this expansion and set-up humanitarian zones - where no guns (guerrilla, state or paramilitary) are welcome.

The sidewalk seemed to be the best place to be standing as I remembered the testimony I have showed over and over again to students across my region.

Muriam and Alex
Dinner #2 ...was a 5 minute subway ride to St. Michael's College, my Alma Mater. Not only do I get to eat here, but my children are welcomed too! The price tag for the tasty 3-course meal with local wine? $5.  This is the chaplaincy dinner subsidized and hosted by the religious and community affairs commission of the student union.  I've been invited to speak as the keynote by Muriam Salman and Alex Zappone.  God Bless them both - hearts of gold. "I want students to know there is more to university than books and booze," Alex tells me.

I tried to express the Catholic Call to social justice without using the words "social" and "justice".  Instead I sang for them from a song I wrote my mother for Christmas, "My mother she raised the five of us right, she sang us lullabyes and did prayers each night. She taught us to seek out the good, do what you love and live as you should."

It was a warm reception and conversations with students afterwards left us the last to leave.

The first meeting of the new St. Michael's Development and Peace group happens tonight. If you go to St. Mike's and want to join, let me know.

There were two dinners last Thursday, but only one meal. One place where God's desire for us to come to the table to share the abundant resources of creation was truly present.  Thank you Alex and Muriam.