April 2008—a turning point for the Eritrean community in Toronto

By Aaron Berhane May 2008 In April 2008, members of the Medhanie-Alem Church bought a $1.2 million building, which is a delight to anyone who with goo...

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By Aaron Berhane
May 2008

In April 2008, members of the Medhanie-Alem Church bought a $1.2 million building, which is a delight to anyone who with good spirits. They made us proud by being a pride to themselves. They showed our community the extent to which we can grow.

This is a turning point for the Eritrean Canadian community in Toronto. In the 25- year history of our community in Canada, Eritrean Muslims or Christians have never owned a religious centre that allowed them to preserve their culture. Islamic people pray in a Pakistani mosque, Catholics and Protestants pray in Italian churches or places of worship owned by others. They don’t have an adequate place to practise their religion according to their tradition. As a result, the connections they make with the religious centre they attend may become weaker. They may not feel that they belong there or that they are respected. In short, they may always consider themselves only as guests.

The actions of the board of the Medhaniel-Alem Church seem to have changed the status quo. I expect others will follow them.

We might say possessing our own religious institution is not viable due to our low population. However, it is viable if we recognize its importance. We can preserve our culture and religion and we can use the religious institution as a centre for the community to gather. It’s there that we can build the self-confidence of our children. Moreover, the institution will help us to move from an unstable to a stable position and from the status of a guest to that of a host.

When we buy an outstanding church in Canada, we indicate to our community that we have begun to settle in this country. This initiative will clearly demonstrate the progress of the Eritrean-Canadian community. Religious institutions and the two Eritrean community centres are expected to broaden their vision. By strengthening their solidarity, they will march to lay the foundation of their growth. They will look to the board of the Medhanie-Alem Church as their model to move their constituencies forward.

Therefore, we should recognize April 2008 as an important date in the history of Eritrean Canadians in Toronto. It’s indeed our turning point. Let’s recognize it so that we can continue our journey.

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