Publicly funded daycare operators in Quebec are welcoming the province’s announcement it will ban religious instruction in government-subsidized daycares.
Quebec Family Minister Tony Tomassi made the announcement Wednesday, one day after saying he would not prevent daycare centres from teaching religious beliefs.
“The mission of [early-childhood education centres] is really to help families integrate into Quebec culture,” said Annie Turcot, spokesperson for a coalition of publicly funded daycares on the island of Montreal.
On Tuesday, Tomassi had said that Quebec’s public daycares reflect family values and religious instruction was normal in the province.
But on Wednesday, he said the practice will be prohibited.
He said an internal audit has revealed about 20 daycares, which receive public funding, include religious instruction in their educational programs.
“So we have to verify it,” said Tomassi. Once that’s done, he said he will meet with the daycare administrators, and work with them to eliminate religion from their program.
Tomassi refused to commit to withdrawing the permits of centres that do not comply.
A few years ago, Tomassi’s department, which was then run by current Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, granted a permit to an Islamic association so it could open an 80-spot daycare centre in Laval, north of Montreal.
The organization’s objective is to “spread Islamic education among Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Another example is that of the Beth Rivkah centre in Montreal, which is run by Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz. Its website states that all “daily activities are driven by the spirit of Torah and the Jewish tradition.”
Go further: PQ
The opposition Parti-Québécois is demanding the government go even further and declare all daycares secular.
“A lot of people in Quebec [think] this should change,” said party critic Nicolas Girard.
Girard accused the Liberals of being so out of step with public opinion that they have resorted to insulting him as a tactic. During question period, he said one minister called him a racist.
The Quebec government has gone too far, said officials with the Quebec Jewish Congress.
“I don’t see these secularists taking down the cross on Mount Royal, I don’t see them asking for the cross to be removed from the National Assembly, and I don’t see them going to work on December 25th,” said the group’s president Adam Atlas.
Atlas said he is hoping to meet with ministry officials to discuss the ban.
The daycare brouhaha has unfolded amid the controversy surrounding a Muslim woman in Quebec who was kicked out of a government-sponsored French class because she refused to remove her niqab — a traditional face covering.
A Winnipeg man who has struggled with alcoholism for decades says he has filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over the lack of a treatment program that’s free of religious or spiritual elements.Rob Johnstone said he has battled alcoholism for 40 years and can’t find a treatment program that doesn’t rely on religion or spirituality as part of the recovery process.
“I should not be forced to participate in someone else’s religious beliefs. I shouldn’t have to add to mine,” said Johnstone, who added he has been an alcoholic for 40 years.
“I have my own beliefs and I’m happy with them.”
Johnstone said his faith-neutral stance to his own treatment prompted him to be dismissed from an intense residential 12-step program at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM), a provincially-run rehabilitation initiative.
He said he was encouraged by the AFM to find strength in God or a higher power in order to recover, but couldn’t stomach it and was asked to leave.
Johnstone said after scouting around for another program that was free of spirituality, he said he couldn’t find one — despite a few offering what they describe as “faith-free” options.
Programs offered by Manitoba’s Native Addictions Council and the Behavioural Health Foundation each contained spiritual elements like aboriginal drum ceremonies, Johnstone said.
And while in treatment at the latter program, he was approached to see if he was interested in attending services at a Christian church in Winnipeg.
Johnstone said the presence of spiritual elements in rehab programs exploit vulnerable addicts.
“We get involved in mood-altering substances and mind-altering substances,” Johnstone said. “That means the person is very vulnerable when they come in and that person should not be subjected to someone else’s religion.”
He’s hoping his human rights complaint pushes the province to create a treatment program that’s free of spiritual or religious elements. The commission wouldn’t comment on the status of his complaint.
Spiritual element necessary
However, officials at the AFM remain resolute that recovery relies on at least some element of spiritual — but not necessarily religious — belief. The AFM is not affiliated with any organized faith.
And just as a person’s overall well-being depends on their physical health, it’s the same for spiritual considerations, said Laura Goossen, director of the AFM’s Winnipeg region.“Spirituality … is part and parcel of everyone’s life. For some people, their spirituality is more important than others, but it’s a dimension of all of our lives as human beings,” Goossen said.”When they’re in … programming, we do want them to go look for a grain of something that will be helpful for them and disregard the rest,” Goossen added.
Other people who work with addicts hold a similar view.
Maj. Karen Hoeft of the Salvation Army in Winnipeg suggested it’s nearly impossible to separate addictions treatment from spirituality.
Hoeft was not speaking to Johnstone’s case but rather in general terms.
In many cases, the genesis of treatment programs came from faith-based groups that government later stepped in to help fund, she said.
“If you talk to the concept of spirituality, most social recovery models have a level of spirituality,” Hoeft said. “Really, spirituality is getting in touch with who you are.”
Research shows that the spiritual, holistic-based approach to treatment works, she added.
Spirituality boosts effectiveness of treatment: Manitoba Health
A spokeswoman for Manitoba Health echoed the view that spirituality and treatment are inseparable, but said none of the 12 provincially-funded treatment programs requires clients to belong to a specific religion.
“Some degree of a spiritual component is common as these types of programs are believed to be more effective,” the spokeswoman said.
“It is important to recognize that spirituality is not the same as religion. People in recovery tend to benefit from self-reflection, examining their lives, where they’ve come from, who they are and where they’re going.”
In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the government said it spent more than $22 million on the 12 programs, but would not break the total down into specifics for each program.
DOGO NAHAWA, Nigeria— The attackers came at night and surrounded this small farming village, firing shots in the air to scare residents from their homes. Men, women and children were hacked with machetes as they rushed out. Several houses were set on fire with residents still inside.
Details are beginning to emerge from attacks Sunday on four villages in central Nigeria, where witnesses say members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani ethnic group targeted villages that were home to members of the mostly Christian Berom ethnic group. On Monday, local officials counted 378 bodies in the villages of Dogo Nahawa, Rasat, Zot and Shen.
The dead, in a freshly dug mass grave, included a pregnant woman and at least one infant. A few miles away in Jos, a city of a half-million at the crossroads of Nigeria’s Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, troops patrolled the outskirts and set up checkpoints. There was a light police presence in Dogo Nahawa.
“I was sleeping at night next to my husband when I heard shooting,” said village resident Nomi Dung, 38 years old, her eyes red. “My husband told us to run, but I said, ‘No I will not run—even if I die, let me die in my home.’ My husband ran, and entered into the [attackers’] hands. My children ran outside because they were afraid from the shooting.”
Ms. Dung could not finish. A relative said her three children, ages 8, 5 and 3, had been killed.
The new violence compounds the political uncertainties in Africa’s most-populous nation. With sub-Saharan Africa’s largest Muslim population, Nigeria has largely avoided extremist ideology. But the threat of a deepening religious divide adds to security problems and a leadership vacuum that have prompted worries that one of the world’s largest oil-producers could be careening out of control.
Nigeria’s president, Umaru Yar’Adua, has traveled abroad frequently for medical treatments and hasn’t been seen in public for three months. His vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been given temporary executive powers and control over the military, but has faced political resistance from aides loyal to Mr. Yar’Adua. Meanwhile, militants have attacked energy pipelines belonging to Western multinationals and one major group recently abandoned an amnesty deal with the government.
Responding to Sunday’s killings, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both called on the involved parties to exercise restraint.
Mr. Jonathan, Nigeria’s acting president, deployed the Nigerian military to Jos and said the situation was under control. He also fired the country’s national security adviser on Monday, according to a statement.
The weekend’s attack appeared to be a reprisal for violence that claimed at least 300 lives in January, when Christian villagers targeted Muslims in a separate, nearby village, according to rights groups.
Officials and witnesses say the latest attack appeared well planned and brutally executed. The attackers didn’t shoot victims, but rather shot into the air to lure residents out of their homes, where they awaited them with machetes.
At a mass burial Monday in Dogo Nahawa, site of the worst violence, angry residents talked of revenge as they gathered around a large pit and scattered dirt on several dozen charred and bloodied bodies, some brought from neighboring villages. When an infant was lowered into the pit, women broke out in wails.
A village chief chastised area youth for not being ready to fight. “This is a lesson,” the chief said. “Now is the time for everyone to wake up. Elders are calling you youths to come out.”
An elderly woman prayed at the edge of the burial pit, chanting. “By God’s grace we will enter their villages and kill their women and children,” she repeated.
“We will do much worse to them,” one baby-faced man said.
When plumes of dust appeared in the distance during the burial service, mourners began to worry that the attackers were coming back. The dust was actually being kicked up by a truck carrying the bodies of 16 more victims, including an infant and a toddler, from another village.
A local journalist was nearly killed when the crowd of mourners at the burial site recognized him as a Muslim. The man was beaten for several minutes while young men shouted, “Kill him! He must die!” before police appeared and fired shots into the air. Young men continued to beat and throw rocks at the man while the police carried him away to a hospital.
Another local journalist, suspected of being Muslim, was asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer as proof of his Christianity. Mourners asked members of an international television crew if they were from Al Jazeera, saying there would be trouble for them if they were. The journalists, an American and a Kenyan, wore hats identifying their organization, CNN.
As journalists left the village by a rutted dirt road before the village’s dusk-to-dawn curfew, which was set Sunday, groups of young men gathered at the roadside with sticks and clubs.
Dogo Nahawa sits amid rolling hills, surrounded by former tin and columbite mines. Residents are predominantly farmers, cultivating corn and acha, a type of rice often called “hungry rice” because of its small size.
Several residents and officials, including Gabriel Gyong, 59, a civil servant, said there hadn’t been conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Dogo Nahama before.
Mr. Gyong said he woke to gunfire early Sunday. “Children were frightened and began running helter-skelter,” he said. “People who ran out of town were the ones who were slaughtered….They burned my house down, and they burned my car. I lost three grandchildren.”
Pastor Yohanna Gyang Jugu, of Church of Christ in Nigeria, sat outside his burned-down church, tears in his eyes.
“We were sleeping and we heard gunshots all around,” he said. “I woke up and went outside. There was nowhere to pass. Fulani men had surrounded the village. They caught my wife and killer her, and my daughter. They were cutting people down with machetes.”
During the burial service, Solomn Zang, the commissioner for works and transport in Plateau State, where Dogo Nahawa is located, said that the military was not sufficient for protection.
“God willing, we will do something about this,” he said. “Next time if this happens you shouldn’t call the police or the military, call on your neighbors to come and fight.”
In a well-meaning attempt to be tolerant of other cultures and religions we often blithely subvert our values and morality, says Sam Harris, the outspoken critic of blind religious faith. We do this because we think that questions about good and evil or right and wrong cannot be answered definitively. But they can, he told a rapt audience at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference Thursday — and they should.
Harris is no stranger to the argument that, to put it more mildly than he might, religion does more harm than good. His 2005 New York Times bestseller The End of Faith attempted to draw a straight line from faith to human atrocities. His subsequent Letter to a Christian Nation took on the fierce pushback he received from writing his first book.
So it should come as no surprise that Harris ran with this theme at TED, expanding his argument beyond the faithful to the secular-leaning. Scientists and academics, who are wedded to facts and empiricism, he said, do something different when they talk about morality. “We value differences of opinion in a way that we don’t in other areas,” Harris said.
We know that there are fundamentally right and wrong answers to certain questions and issues, but do not trust our instincts, he said. These cast-aside tenets should respected and should be the basis of a universal morality, regardless of variations in cultures and belief.
Even within a single culture it’s easy to fall into a morally relativistic trap, he said. For example, Harris noted, there are 21 states in the U.S. where it’s legal for a teacher to beat a child with a wooden board to the point of leaving bruises and breaking skin. The rationale for this behavior is the Biblical quote about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.
The obvious question, Harris said, is whether it is actually a sound idea to subject children to pain and violence and public humiliation as a way of encouraging healthy emotional development and good behavior.
He also pointed to the issue of women in the Muslim world who cover themselves in burqas.
“I’m not talking about voluntary wearing of a veil. Women should be able to wear whatever they want,” he said. But it’s not an option when not wearing a burqa is a punishable offense. And even more importantly, he said, what of those cultures which punish a brutalized woman, where “when a girl gets raped, her father’s first impulse, rather often, is to murder her out of shame?”
We should not feel constrained to assert what we think is an objective truth — that such behavior is wrong — for fear that it will be taken as subjective meddling or demagoguery, Harris argued. There is a moral imperative not to hold one’s tongue but rather to speak out.
“Who are we not to say [that it’s wrong]?” he asked. “Who are we to pretend that we know so little about human well being that we have to be nonjudgmental about a practice like this?”
We can no longer respect and tolerate vast differences of opinion of what constitutes basic humanity any more than we can take seriously different opinions about how disease spreads or what it takes to make buildings and airplanes safe, Harris insisted.
We simply must converge on the answers we give to the most important question in human life, Harris concluded. And to do that we have to admit that there are answers.
Wait no.. the other thing..
Boulder, Colo. (AP) – A Catholic school in Colorado is kicking out a preschooler because the child’s parents are lesbians.
The child will not be allowed to re-enroll next year at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School. The Denver Archdiocese posted a statement Friday that the parents are “living in open discord with Catholic teaching.”
The statement says students in Catholic schools are expected to have parents who abide by policies of the school and church. The Archdiocese said students with gay parents in Catholic schools would become “confused.”
The school’s decision was first reported Friday by KUSA-TV in Denver.