Marking two decades of spirited activism, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives turned 20 this year. The organization, which is administered by the United Church, had much to celebrate, including its strong legacy of standing in solidarity with vulnerable populations and its hope for a more just, sustainable future.
“It’s maturing into this wonderful organization that will continue to grow and evolve in its adulthood,” reflects executive director Aisha Francis.
Taking its name from the Greek word that translates as “right time” or “spiritual opportunity,” KAIROS was born on July 1, 2001, when 10 ecumenical partners came together to address migrant and Indigenous rights, poverty reduction, economic disparity and more. Working with affected communities, it has fought for debt cancellation in the Global South, protections for temporary foreign workers in Canada and full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, among other causes.
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The birthday celebrations and conversations culminated in October with a youth event and a three-day virtual gathering. The latter featured a series of panels focused on the past, present and future of KAIROS, as well as an online version of its popular blanket exercise, a resource for educating settler Canadians about colonialism’s impact on Indigenous peoples.
“Doing it all online makes it in some ways more equitable,” says Shannon Neufeldt, member relations and network co-ordinator for KAIROS. “We’re able to reach less populated, more remote communities….The pivot towards virtual programming is likely to increase.”
The milestone has also been a time to envision what lies ahead for the human rights and justice-oriented organization. “I think we’re in another kairos moment — this moment of change,” Francis says, “and there’s a shift happening that is going to take us to the next 20 years of the organization.”
Julie McGonegal is a writer and editor in Barrie, Ont.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s December 2021 issue with the title “A milestone birthday for KAIROS.”
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