My last name is Kilmartin. That means the forebears on my father’s side come from Ireland (a fact of which I am proud). My Dad’s father immigrated to the country early in the last century, and, being a good Catholic, married a French Canadian woman whose family had been in the country for many years before that. But she too, of course, came from a family that had arrived from France at one point.
My mother’s Mom was born in Canada, but her family was from Germany. So was my mother’s Dad, who came from Germany/Ukraine via Siberia right after the Great War and the 1918 influenza just about wiped out his family.
So, while I was born here in the country, I have a great respect for immigrants, and my own feeling is that this country has been built by immigrants – whether they came from the Old Country by boat or plane through Halifax in the last century or so, or across the Bering Strait in the last few millennia.
There is a major hue and cry in the country today about the immigration issue, and since some of it has to do with religious freedom and values I thought I would comment on it here. Also, I would like to outline my point of view because while, as my daughter says, it is not that original, it is getting more and more difficult to articulate.
I for one welcome all immigrants who come here legally and by due process. It matters not to me whether they are Christian, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, or what have you. I take it for granted that they will wish to bring as much of their culture with them into the country – that is what my grandparents did, after all. Take their language – Grandpa John spoke English (with a brogue), Granny Kilmartin spoke French and English with an accent; my mother’s parents both spoke German, but WW 2 meant they did not pass that on to their children. It would have been great to grow up bi-lingual, with either French or German as my second language, but I did not have the opportunity. I would not want to take that away from anyone else.
Some are fearful that our country will be overtaken by people with values that are foreign to them, that we will have something like Sharia law before too long if we allow too many Muslims in, for instance. I don’t worry too much about that. If a person legally comes into the country and wishes to advocate for some new custom or practise of law, they ought to be free to do that. That is what our country is all about, after all.
Here is the thing, though – and this is what I fear we are losing at present. If I do not agree that Sharia law is a wonderful thing (and I do not think that it is), then I too ought to be free to speak my mind and rationally explain why I feel it may not be the best system of law for our country – without being tagged as some kind of villain in the process. Then, when all sides of the debate have been heard in the Public Square, let the people decide through their elected representatives. To me, this is what a liberal democracy is all about.
The difficulty, of course, is this last part is getting squeezed out of us; somehow we have lost the ability to be able to talk with one another, and to debate the merit of one idea against another. Perhaps because we are a pluralist society, it is very hard to make a point against Project X without it being labelled hate speech, or as some kind of bigotry or phobia. We have lost our sense of nuance, and as a result we have also lost our sense of civility towards those we might disagree with.
I speak as a Christian pilgrim (cf. Heb 11.13 and 1 Pet 2.11 in the KJV) – someone who knows that this country is not my final home; I am only passing through here – literally. I am on my way to other countries in order to bring my Christian perspective to bear on people who already have their own set of values and religious principles. I am going by invitation, but the fact remains – I am going there to put my religion out into the Public Square, just as Paul did in Athens on Mars Hill, and see if there are any takers.
Here in Canada, and over where I am going, I am confident that the mystery/religion that has been revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ will be strong enough to stand whatever tests it comes up against. For Christians especially the issue is not so much what kinds of ideology we come up against – whether they be secular humanism or fundamentalist Islam – but of our being faithful to live according to what we have been entrusted with.