Jennifer Henry, KAIROS

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Jennifer Henry is the Executive Director of KAIROS, an umbrella organization that unites Canadian churches and religious organizations to advocate for social change. KAIROS strives to be a prophetic voice in the public sphere, empowering the religious to live out their faith through action for justice and for peace.

I spoke with Jennifer at the KAIROS offices in Toronto, Ontario.

Faith communities believe that the impossible is possible. We hold to an incredible hope that things can be better that things must be better. I think we see our work as collaborating with God’s dream of justice. Because we know that what is intended for human beings, what’s intended for the Earth is well-being.

In the Bible in our sacred stories we have this notion of Jubilee. And it’s a notion that things get out of whack. Things become unequal, our relationship with the Earth is maybe not as we would want it to be. And so every fifty years you enact a Jubilee, where you essentially try to set things right. So you cancel debts that have been accumulated. You redistribute wealth. You rest the Earth in a profound way, and so it’s this notion of kind of a correction that needs to be done on a periodic basis to address the inequalities that have happened. And so the Jubilee movement lifted that idea off the pages and drew on it as kind of inspiration to propose that kind of global correction in the world at the time of the millennial change in 2000.

KAIROS is really committed to the work of indigenous rights, and to right relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada. And so the work right now is about giving urgency and momentum and attention to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s ninety-four calls to action. One of the things about social justice work and trying to make systemic change and structural change is it takes a long time. It can take decades to bring about the kind of change that we’re looking for. And on the issue of indigenous rights in Canada, indigenous rights relations, the church has been at this for forty years. And we are beginning now to see a kind of opening in the country to actually a possible change towards that reconciled relationship. It is a KAIROS moment. There is a possibility an opening that we could be a different country than the one that we have been.

We’re not involved in partisan politics. But we are involved in policy change. At a grassroots level many people in the churches help with giving direct and charitable support to people. But the church has to also be about addressing the problems that created those situations in the first place. And so that means we have to actually address structures and systems, we have to be engaged in the public sphere in policy change. Actually trying to address the situation that got folks there in the first place. And I think that, that’s our job, and it’s a challenging job, but we need to be about getting to the root causes of the issues. And that’s what KAIROS does.

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