So there is a (semi?) regular event that occurs in Vancouver every year called “Missions Fest” which is hosted by an international Christian corporation that travels around the world hosting these events and trying to connect Christians to various ‘mission’ opportunities around the world. This year’s event happened about a week ago and the keynote speaker was a fellow from International Justice Mission (which is, according to their website, “a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression”). Oh, and the event was hosted in a megachurch — it has a multimillion dollar budget, building funds the run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, that sort of thing.
Anyway, a friend of mine who runs a local community-based social justice-oriented group called Streams of Justice was invited to come and do a workshop at this event. Although this sort of thing is a bit outside of their usual sphere, some people from the group decided to go ahead and take a stab at it. So, they did a presentation on some of the factors that create and perpetuate poverty, oppression, violence, and slavery in Vancouver. As a part of their presentation, a homeless fellow who struggles with an addiction was invited to come and share his story. The presentation went well enough, I guess. They received the standard sort of Conservative Christian response (i.e. one fellow stood up and said: “But don’t you think that the real solution to all of these problems is a personal relationship with Jesus?”).
Anyway, my friend ended up taking off shortly after the presentation was finished and he caught up with the homeless fellow a few days later and asked him what he thought of the event. Well, it turns out that the homeless fellow got kicked out. After the event, he began to go around collecting empty pop cans (this is how he makes money). While doing so he was confronted by some sort of staff member (either of the church or of the conference, it’s unclear which), who told him that the cans were the property of the church and who then required him to leave.
Yep, so here we have a bunch of rich Christians dropping thousands of dollars on a conference about missions and justice, and the one homeless guy who is invited to attend gets kicked out because, dammit, the church is going to get the money for recycling those cans. Sadly, while this is atrocious, I don’t find it altogether surprising.