John Longhurst

John Longhurst

Faith reporter

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” 

For John, that quote by author Douglas Adams pretty much sums up his life.

Born and raised in southern Ontario, in 1976 John decided to attend university in Winnipeg on a whim — just for one year. But one year turned into two, then three and four and now, all these years later, he is a Winnipegger.

In 1978, on another whim, he applied for a summer internship at a magazine. Although he had zero experience, he got the job. The storytelling bug bit hard, and he’s never looked back.

That decision led to a winding and almost whimsical career through three countries and nine different jobs, mostly in communications and marketing for international relief and development organizations (which provided the added bonus of being able to tell stories from around the world).  

Along the way, John came to see the importance of working with the media as a great way for non-profits to share stories with the public. This led him to write Making the News: An Essential Guide for Effective Media Relations (Novalis).

One constant through John’s career has been his belief that almost every story has religion angle, and that the media could do a better job of telling it — as a succession of Free Press editors, beginning with Nick Hirst, knows only too well!

This belief also prompted him to organize Canada’s first-ever conference on faith and the media in in Ottawa in 1998, in collaboration with various media and local and national faith groups. More than 250 people from the media and faith groups attended the conference, which was sponsored by the Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication and the Canadian Association of Journalists

In 2006, John received the Distinguished Contribution to Religious Communications from the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada. He has also won awards for his writing from the Associated Church Press and the Canadian Church Press. 

John is a big believer in interfaith relations. Faith groups may differ on matters of belief, but also have many things in common. This includes making sure the role religion plays in society isn’t ignored by the media.

As the faith page columnist since 2003, John is grateful for how the Free Press has maintained its commitment to covering religion — even as other Canadian newspapers have dropped the religion beat.

John is a member of River East Church (Mennonite). He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

Recent articles of John Longhurst

Youth for Christ's policies pushing people away

John Longhurst 9 minute read Preview

Youth for Christ's policies pushing people away

John Longhurst 9 minute read Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

One of the most contentious issues for many Christian denominations in Canada today is the subject of welcoming and affirming members of the LGBTTQ+ community.

Some mainline denominations, such as the United Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, have already decided to welcome and affirm all, regardless of sexual orientation.

Most conservative and evangelical denominations have resisted a move in that direction. But the pressure on them to change is growing — and not just from the outside. In the U.S., 64 per cent of evangelical church members under the age of 40 support same-sex marriage, up from 48 per cent in 2016.

There are no similar surveys about same-sex marriage and evangelicals in Canada, but there is no reason to believe things are different here. As Sam Reimer, a professor at Crandall University in New Brunswick who studies religion in Canada put it: “The young evangelicals I talk to are changing their attitudes toward same-sex marriage.”

Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

Youth For Christ requires staff to sign a statement that says, in part, that the purity and sanctity of sexual relations should happen only within marriage between one man and one woman. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Evangelical decline may be down to categorization

John Longhurst 5 minute read Preview

Evangelical decline may be down to categorization

John Longhurst 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022

For decades, mainline Protestant denominations in Canada have been declining. So it came as no surprise when the 2021 census reported that, since 2011, the number of Canadians affiliating with United, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Anglican churches collectively dropped from 4.5 million to 2.9 million.

But what was surprising this time around was learning that two evangelical denominations, Baptists and Pentecostals, also declined in the last decade. The number of people who identify as Baptist fell from 635,840 to 436,040, while those saying they are Pentecostal dropped from 478,705 to 399,025.

Since those are the only two evangelical denominations that Statistics Canada has been specifically tracking over time, it’s hard to tell if the decrease applies to all evangelical denominations.

What also muddies the waters are two other categories in the census — “Other Christian” and “Christian Not Otherwise Specified.” Both of those have grown over the last 10 years.

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022

For decades, mainline Protestant denominations in Canada have been declining. So it came as no surprise when the 2021 census reported that, since 2011, the number of Canadians affiliating with United, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Anglican churches collectively dropped from 4.5 million to 2.9 million.

But what was surprising this time around was learning that two evangelical denominations, Baptists and Pentecostals, also declined in the last decade. The number of people who identify as Baptist fell from 635,840 to 436,040, while those saying they are Pentecostal dropped from 478,705 to 399,025.

Since those are the only two evangelical denominations that Statistics Canada has been specifically tracking over time, it’s hard to tell if the decrease applies to all evangelical denominations.

What also muddies the waters are two other categories in the census — “Other Christian” and “Christian Not Otherwise Specified.” Both of those have grown over the last 10 years.

Tributes pour in after Springs Church leader’s death

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Tributes pour in after Springs Church leader’s death

John Longhurst 3 minute read Friday, Nov. 25, 2022

A seemingly endless stream of online tributes for popular Springs Church senior pastor Leon Fontaine from people across the city, the province and beyond continues a week after his death.

The sometimes controversial church leader died of aggressive late-stage cancer last Saturday at the age of 59.

“I have known Leon Fontaine to be one of the wisest, most courageous, immovable and effective spiritual leaders our nation has seen in the last decades,” one said. “A true gift from heaven to Canada.”

“I have never met anyone who lived with such unwavering purpose and passion. He challenged us to do everything with excellence and with eternity in mind,” wrote another, adding “I know that God’s not done with Springs Church.”

Friday, Nov. 25, 2022

JOHN WOODS / FREE PRESS FILES

Leon Fontaine died of aggressive late-stage cancer last Saturday at the age of 59.

Grand Mosque to welcome Winnipeggers at open house

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Grand Mosque to welcome Winnipeggers at open house

John Longhurst 3 minute read Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque is inviting people to meet their neighbours at the annual open house after two years of pandemic restrictions.

The mosque in the city’s south end will be open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, with presentations, tours and refreshments.

“It’s an opportunity to build bridges and connect with each other,” said Idris Elbakri, secretary of the Manitoba Islamic Association board.

“We invite people who are curious about Islam, who may have never been in a mosque before, to come and learn more about us,” he said, adding it can be a way to “dispel any misunderstandings.”

Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The mosque in the city’s south end will be open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, with presentations, tours and refreshments.

Church faces future without controversial, charismatic leader

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Church faces future without controversial, charismatic leader

John Longhurst 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

Agree with him or not, Leon Fontaine made an impact on Winnipeg. And there were plenty of people who fell into both camps.

Fontaine, the longtime pastor of Springs Church, died Nov. 19. The cause of death has not yet been released.

After arriving at the church in 1994, Fontaine and his wife, Sally, grew it into the largest congregation in Canada, with about 8,000 people attending three locations in Winnipeg and Calgary.

In 2020, the church had a budget of almost $11.5 million, $9.5 million of it from donations. It had a total of 58 full-and 33 part-time staff.

Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

In 2020, the Springs church had a budget of almost $11.5 million, $9.5 million of it from donations. It had a total of 58 full-and 33 part-time staff.

Call to help Ukraine because ‘people are still suffering’

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Call to help Ukraine because ‘people are still suffering’

John Longhurst 3 minute read Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

Canada's Ukrainian Catholic bishops are calling on Catholics and others in the country to pray, fast and donate to help people in Ukraine from Nov. 24-26.

“The war in Ukraine rages on with no end in site, claiming the lives of thousands of innocent children, men and women, with millions more on the move as refuges in search of safety, food, shelter, clothing and medicine,” said a letter from the bishops, including Lawrence Huculak, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg.

“As winter approaches, hundreds of thousands of people will have no heat in their homes, with energy being used as a weapon of punishment.”

The letter compares the current situation to the Holodomor, or genocide, of 1932-33. That’s when leaders of the then Soviet Union “deliberately and methodically” starved millions of people in Ukraine.

Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Lawrence Huculak, Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg is calling for prayer, fasting and donations.

Decolonizing religion must start with listening

John Longhurst 4 minute read Preview

Decolonizing religion must start with listening

John Longhurst 4 minute read Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022

Five months after hearing Pope Francis deliver his apology to Indigenous people in Alberta, and nine months after going to Rome with the delegation of Indigenous people to report about their request for him to apologize, I’m still processing my response to those events.

While in those places, I was humbled and horrified to hear their stories of pain as they recounted their experiences at residential schools.

People told me about being taken away from parents at ages as young as four years old, and crying all the way to the school. People told me about witnessing or experiencing physical and sexual abuse at the hands of school officials, including priests. These are people who lost their language, culture and connection to family and home.

At the same time, I was impressed by their strength, dignity and resilience — despite those horrific abuses — and how their Indigenous spirituality and traditions are giving them the ability to carry on.

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022

Five months after hearing Pope Francis deliver his apology to Indigenous people in Alberta, and nine months after going to Rome with the delegation of Indigenous people to report about their request for him to apologize, I’m still processing my response to those events.

While in those places, I was humbled and horrified to hear their stories of pain as they recounted their experiences at residential schools.

People told me about being taken away from parents at ages as young as four years old, and crying all the way to the school. People told me about witnessing or experiencing physical and sexual abuse at the hands of school officials, including priests. These are people who lost their language, culture and connection to family and home.

At the same time, I was impressed by their strength, dignity and resilience — despite those horrific abuses — and how their Indigenous spirituality and traditions are giving them the ability to carry on.

Warm hearts (and hands) on Winnipeg Mitzvah Day

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Warm hearts (and hands) on Winnipeg Mitzvah Day

John Longhurst 3 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

What this world could use is a little mitzvah — or kindness. That’s the idea behind the fourth annual Winnipeg Mitzvah Day.

Organized by the Winnipeg section of the National Council of Jewish Women Canada, Mitzvah Day — Nov. 20 — is a day for people to do a good deed for others.

“Mitzvah,” in Hebrew, literally means “commandment,” but it has taken on the idea of doing a good deed, local section president Sharon Graham said.

“It’s about making a difference in our community,” she said, adding the event originated in the United Kingdom and spread to other countries.

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022

What this world could use is a little mitzvah — or kindness. That’s the idea behind the fourth annual Winnipeg Mitzvah Day.

Organized by the Winnipeg section of the National Council of Jewish Women Canada, Mitzvah Day — Nov. 20 — is a day for people to do a good deed for others.

“Mitzvah,” in Hebrew, literally means “commandment,” but it has taken on the idea of doing a good deed, local section president Sharon Graham said.

“It’s about making a difference in our community,” she said, adding the event originated in the United Kingdom and spread to other countries.

‘I can’t get it out of my head’: Local pastor witnesses impact of war in Ukraine

John Longhurst 4 minute read Preview

‘I can’t get it out of my head’: Local pastor witnesses impact of war in Ukraine

John Longhurst 4 minute read Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022

The one thing Gerry Michalski remembers from his time in Bucha, Ukraine — scene of massacre by Russian forces — is the “smell of death.”

“I can’t get it out of my head,” he said.

Michalski, lead pastor with his wife, Sharon, of Soul Sanctuary Church in Winnipeg, was in Ukraine the last two weeks of October to see how donations from the church were being used in that country.

To date, about $300,000 has been raised by the congregation, located in the southwest part of the city, to help Ukrainians displaced by the war.

Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022

SUPPLIED

Gerry Michalski, second from left, with people who received food from donations provided by his church in Winnipeg.

A StatCan study shows percentage of Canadians identifying as Christian continues to fall

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A StatCan study shows percentage of Canadians identifying as Christian continues to fall

John Longhurst 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 11, 2022

A faithful reader of this column often contacts me to ask why I keep writing about the decline of organized Christianity in Canada.

The answer is simple: Because that’s what’s happening — as the most recent Statistics Canada report about religion in Canada makes plain.

The report, based on the 2021 census, found that 53.3 per cent of Canadians identified as Christians. This is down from 67.3 per cent in 2011 and 77.1 per cent in 2001.

Of those who identify as Christians, about 30 per cent are Catholic (down from 39 per cent in 2011), 3.3 per cent are involved with the United Church (6.1 per cent), 3.1 per cent are Anglican (five per cent), 0.9 per cent are Lutherans (1.4 per cent), 0.8 per cent are Presbyterians (1.4 per cent), 1.2 per cent are Baptist (1.9 per cent) and 1.1 per cent are Pentecostal (1.5 per cent). The number of Canadians identifying as Christian Orthodox was the same in 2021 as in 2011 at 1.7 per cent.

Friday, Nov. 11, 2022

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

A recent Statistics Canada report about religion in Canada, based on the 2021 census, found that 53.3 per cent of Canadians identified as Christians. That is down from 67.3 per cent in 2011 and 77.1 per cent in 2001.

Winnipegger advocating for world’s poorest citizens at global climate-change conference

John Longhurst 4 minute read Preview

Winnipegger advocating for world’s poorest citizens at global climate-change conference

John Longhurst 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022

In his opening address at the opening of COP27, the United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, United Nations head António Guterres said the world is on a “highway to hell” due to climate change.

But poor and vulnerable people in some developing countries are already there.

That’s the message Naomi Johnson, senior policy adviser for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, has taken to the conference from her home in Winnipeg. The organization is a partnership of 15 church and church-based agencies working to end global hunger.

Speaking from her hotel room in the Egyptian city, Johnson said many people in the developing world are already feeling the worst effects of climate change.

Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Naomi Johnson, senior policy adviser for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, is attending COP27, the United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Jewish heritage centre to honour Holocaust survivor

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Jewish heritage centre to honour Holocaust survivor

John Longhurst 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

HANS Wolpe’s life sounds like the plot of movie; he’s a Holocaust survivor, soldier, and new Canadian.

Wolpe, a Jew, went into hiding when the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940. He escaped the concentration camps, but the rest of his family didn’t. They were killed in Auschwitz.

He moved around Europe using false papers, all the while hiding his identity. He ended up in Calais, France, where he was hired as an interpreter by the Nazis.

After the Allies invaded Europe, Canadian forces besieged Calais in September 1944. When the Nazis allowed civilians to evacuate the city, Wolpe left, too. When he encountered soldiers from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, he offered to show them on a map the location of the Nazi defences and volunteered to fight with them.

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022

SUPPLIED

Holocaust survivor, soldier, new Canadian — Hans Wolpe

Winnipeg Railway Museum secures home hub

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Winnipeg Railway Museum secures home hub

John Longhurst 3 minute read Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

The trains are back on track at the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

The volunteer-run organization has signed a 25-year lease with Via Rail, the owner of the downtown train station that houses the museum.

“It’s a feeling of relief,” said Gord Leathers, who directs public relations for the museum. “It was a real shock when we were told we had to close.”

In December 2021, the museum got the news it would have to move or close for good, after renovations by Via triggered other building code requirements to the train shed housing the museum’s collection of locomotives, rolling stock and other railway-related artifacts.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Winnipeg Railway Museum has signed a 25-year lease with Via Rail, the owner of the downtown train station that houses the museum.

MCC moving to downtown digs

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MCC moving to downtown digs

John Longhurst 4 minute read Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

The Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba is moving to the Exchange District — a location it says better reflects its mission — after 36 years in the suburbs.

In the spring, the organization will leave its office off of Pembina Highway near the University of Manitoba, and relocate to the east Exchange.

“We want to be closer to where the people we serve live,” said executive director Darryl Loewen. “Newcomers, refugees, Indigenous people, youth in need of employment.”

Its mission is “to share God’s love and compassion through relief, development and peacebuilding.”

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The MCC’s new location (still being renovated) at 140 Bannatyne. MCC will be taking over the first floor and part of the second floor of this building.

Remember those who survived unspeakable horror

John Longhurst 5 minute read Preview

Remember those who survived unspeakable horror

John Longhurst 5 minute read Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

November is Holocaust Education month. It’s a time to remember how the Nazis tried to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, and pledge to never let something like that happen again.

It’s also time to remember those who survived that unspeakable horror. Over the past number of years, I’ve been privileged to interview some of those Holocaust survivors for this newspaper. Those were unforgettable experiences.

One of the people I interviewed was Angela Orosz-Richt of Montreal, the youngest Canadian survivor of Auschwitz.

Her mother was three months pregnant in May 1944 when she and her husband were deported by the Nazis from Hungary to Auschwitz. Her mother kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone, Orosz-Richt told me, adding her mother was experimented on by the infamous Auschwitz death doctor, Josef Mengele.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022

November is Holocaust Education month. It’s a time to remember how the Nazis tried to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, and pledge to never let something like that happen again.

It’s also time to remember those who survived that unspeakable horror. Over the past number of years, I’ve been privileged to interview some of those Holocaust survivors for this newspaper. Those were unforgettable experiences.

One of the people I interviewed was Angela Orosz-Richt of Montreal, the youngest Canadian survivor of Auschwitz.

Her mother was three months pregnant in May 1944 when she and her husband were deported by the Nazis from Hungary to Auschwitz. Her mother kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone, Orosz-Richt told me, adding her mother was experimented on by the infamous Auschwitz death doctor, Josef Mengele.

Contemplating the benefits of meditation

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Contemplating the benefits of meditation

John Longhurst 3 minute read Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

There’s a lot to make people worry these days: rising inflation, a looming recession, climate change, homelessness and crime, and the war in Ukraine.

So, it might seem like a tall order to find inner peace.

“There’s so much that triggers us these days,” said Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, minister at Westworth United Church.

To help her deal with the challenging news in the world today, MacKenzie Shepherd practises “centering prayer,” a way to let go of worrisome thoughts.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

There’s a lot to make people worry these days: rising inflation, a looming recession, climate change, homelessness and crime, and the war in Ukraine.

So, it might seem like a tall order to find inner peace.

“There’s so much that triggers us these days,” said Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, minister at Westworth United Church.

To help her deal with the challenging news in the world today, MacKenzie Shepherd practises “centering prayer,” a way to let go of worrisome thoughts.

Former Winnipegger of Métis ancestry, raised Jewish sharing her experience

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Former Winnipegger of Métis ancestry, raised Jewish sharing her experience

John Longhurst 3 minute read Monday, Oct. 31, 2022

Growing up as an adopted child in a Jewish family in Winnipeg, Lisa Wilder knew she was different. She just didn’t know why.

She found out when she was in her mid-20s.

She was of Métis ancestry.

“I felt misaligned as a child,” said Wilder, 53, who was part of the ’60s Scoop.

Monday, Oct. 31, 2022

SUPPLIED

Lisa Wilder

Ministry promotes liberating power of rest

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Ministry promotes liberating power of rest

John Longhurst 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

Are you feeling tired? Has the weight of work and family responsibilities worn you down? Not getting enough sleep at night? Or maybe the barrage of bad news every day in the media has left you mentally and emotionally exhausted.

If that’s you, maybe what you need is a nap. That’s what Tricia Hersey prescribes.

Hersey, also known as the Nap Bishop, is a poet, artist, author and theologian who started the Nap Ministry in 2016 — a ministry that promotes the liberating power of rest.

“I begin experimenting with rest as a tool for my own liberation and healing in 2013,” she said on her website of the time she was starting divinity school, raising a child and working two jobs.

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

Are you feeling tired? Has the weight of work and family responsibilities worn you down? Not getting enough sleep at night? Or maybe the barrage of bad news every day in the media has left you mentally and emotionally exhausted.

If that’s you, maybe what you need is a nap. That’s what Tricia Hersey prescribes.

Hersey, also known as the Nap Bishop, is a poet, artist, author and theologian who started the Nap Ministry in 2016 — a ministry that promotes the liberating power of rest.

“I begin experimenting with rest as a tool for my own liberation and healing in 2013,” she said on her website of the time she was starting divinity school, raising a child and working two jobs.

Symposium to explore online issues

John Longhurst 5 minute read Preview

Symposium to explore online issues

John Longhurst 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022

When historian Elizabeth Eisenstein researched the history of the printing press, she wanted to know: How long did it take for the changes to work their way through European society, and what was life like when that happened?

In her resulting book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Eisenstein wrote that the changes took about a hundred years. As for the world during that time, it was chaotic, challenging, disruptive and disorienting as people struggled to come to terms with the new way of sharing information.

Jobs were lost — sorry, scribes — and new jobs created. Information flowed freer and faster than ever before. At the same time, society was rocked as traditional centres of authority were uprooted; where church and state had once controlled information, now anyone with the ability to publish a pamphlet or book could make their views known.

In other words, things felt much like they do today. The main difference is the timing; changes that took about a century in Gutenberg’s time are happening very quickly now.

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022

Winnipeg church series seeks to build LGBTTQ+ inclusion

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Winnipeg church series seeks to build LGBTTQ+ inclusion

John Longhurst 3 minute read Friday, Oct. 21, 2022

In 2017, after Winnipeg’s First Mennonite Church decided to become affirming and welcoming of LGBTTQ+ people, its next question was: “What now?”

“There was a temptation to think we’d arrived after doing that,” lead minister David Driedger said this week of the church’s decision. However, he soon learned it was just the start of the conversation.

“If you think of a church like a house, and you invite people into your house, the next question is to reassess the house rules and accessibility,” he said. “What are the implicit and explicit things that make people truly feel welcome or not?”

Finding answers to those questions is the goal of “Queer Theology and the Church: After the Affirmation,” a series of four Sunday evening, in-person (922 Notre Dame Ave.) and livestreamed conversations about ways churches can make sure LGBTTQ+ people feel fully included.

Friday, Oct. 21, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

David Driedger, minister of First Mennonite Church.

CMHR event covers hijab issues

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

CMHR event covers hijab issues

John Longhurst 3 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

In Iran, women are forced to wear the hijab to cover their hair. In Quebec, public servants who are Muslim are prevented from wearing the head covering.

Meantime, many Canadians are confused by it.

Is it a form of oppression against women or a sign of faith and devotion to God many Muslim women freely choose to wear? Why all the focus on what they wear — or don’t — on their heads, anyway?

Answering those questions is the goal of “Right to Choose: the Hijab and Human Rights,” a presentation (issacanada.com) Friday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Shahina Siddiqui of ISSA will be one of the presenters on Friday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Historic Mennonite migration to Mexico takes centrestage at conference

John Longhurst 3 minute read Preview

Historic Mennonite migration to Mexico takes centrestage at conference

John Longhurst 3 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

One-hundred years ago, the largest voluntary mass migration in Canadian history began when more than 7,000 Mennonites left Manitoba and Saskatchewan for new lives in Mexico.

The emigrants, who departed by train from places such as Plum Coulee and Swift Current, Sask., were fleeing what they viewed as persecution and oppression by the Canadian and provincial governments.

“They were resisting the push to Anglicize Canada after the (First World) War, and the requirement to send their children to English-language schools,” said Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, who holds the chair in Mennonite studies at the University of Winnipeg.

The school question was a breaking point, he said, since the community believed the government had broken its promise to let it educate its children in its own schools.

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

One-hundred years ago, the largest voluntary mass migration in Canadian history began when more than 7,000 Mennonites left Manitoba and Saskatchewan for new lives in Mexico.

The emigrants, who departed by train from places such as Plum Coulee and Swift Current, Sask., were fleeing what they viewed as persecution and oppression by the Canadian and provincial governments.

“They were resisting the push to Anglicize Canada after the (First World) War, and the requirement to send their children to English-language schools,” said Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, who holds the chair in Mennonite studies at the University of Winnipeg.

The school question was a breaking point, he said, since the community believed the government had broken its promise to let it educate its children in its own schools.

Bishops reiterate their rejection of Doctrine of Discovery

John Longhurst 4 minute read Preview

Bishops reiterate their rejection of Doctrine of Discovery

John Longhurst 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022

The Doctrine of Discovery was one of the topics on the table when Canada’s Roman Catholic bishops met for their annual plenary meeting in Cornwall, Ont., at the end of September.

The meeting, held in person for the first time in two years, included an update on the cost of the Papal visit in July. The $18.6 million tab will be covered by donations and contributions from the bishops.

At the same time, they emphasized their commitment to raise $30 million for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund. About $5.5 million has been raised to date.

At the meeting, the bishops reiterated their rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery — they issued a statement against it in 2016 — and added they are in active discussions with the Vatican about issuing a new statement on behalf of the whole Roman Catholic Church.

Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022

The Doctrine of Discovery was one of the topics on the table when Canada’s Roman Catholic bishops met for their annual plenary meeting in Cornwall, Ont., at the end of September.

The meeting, held in person for the first time in two years, included an update on the cost of the Papal visit in July. The $18.6 million tab will be covered by donations and contributions from the bishops.

At the same time, they emphasized their commitment to raise $30 million for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund. About $5.5 million has been raised to date.

At the meeting, the bishops reiterated their rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery — they issued a statement against it in 2016 — and added they are in active discussions with the Vatican about issuing a new statement on behalf of the whole Roman Catholic Church.

Sisters hold final service in beloved monastery

John Longhurst 4 minute read Preview

Sisters hold final service in beloved monastery

John Longhurst 4 minute read Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

For Mary Coswin and Dorothy Levandosky, Friday was bittersweet.

The two members of the Sisters of St. Benedict, along with the 10 other sisters of their order, celebrated eucharist for the last time in the chapel at their former monastery in West St. Paul.

“This is the hardest part of our transition to a new home,” said Coswin, 74, who has been connected to the monastery since the early 1960s. “This was our sacred space.”

“It’s a little heart-wrenching,” said Levandosky, 75.

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

JOHN LONGHURST / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sisters Dorothy Levandosky and Mary Coswin at the monastery.