Having faith in Calgary city core

The City of Calgary will exclude new ethnic and faith communities from growing and prospering within the civic core unless the Centre City Plan is amended, according to a study released today by Cardus, a think tank dedicated to the study of social architecture.

The Calgary City Soul project, Phase Two of which is released today, was conceived in September 2008 when we at Cardus noticed the Centre City Plan — a comprehensive, visionary planning document designed to attract up to 70,000 more residents into the civic core — had overlooked the city-building role that institutions of faith play.

It remains our belief this was not done through intention, but through simple oversight. Beliefs may be private or personal matters, but the institutions that nurture them have long been and remain public and part of, not apart from, the secular society government represents

Phase One of our study indicated that within the boundaries of the Centre City Plan (which redefined “downtown” Calgary), there are 25 spaces devoted to worship, mostly Christian churches and one Buddhist Temple.

There are no synagogues, mosques, Latter Day Saints, Sikh or Hindu temples now within the civic core.

Nor, as stated, did the Centre City Plan specify room for any of these or for new Christian institutions to serve those whom the plan hoped to entice into a revitalized core.   Phase Two examined whether or not the current plan created the unintended consequence of social exclusion. Its conclusions indicate institutions of faith play a strong and vital role within the city’s social architecture not only for persons of faith but for all citizens.

The Cardus think-tank recommends Calgary amend their City Plan to recognize the vital role that institutions of faith play in a great city.

Further, the demographic makeup of the civic core is significantly different from the city’s overall demographics and bears more resemblance to the “old” Calgary than the “new” Calgary.

The changing nature of our society is vividly outlined in census data showing that prior to 1961, 83% of immigrants to Calgary were of a defined Christian background. Of these, 44% were Protestant and 33% Catholic; 1% were Jewish; 1% Buddhist; and the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu immigration numbers were so negligible they were recorded as 0%.   The latest census data available in terms of faith affiliation (2001) outlines a dramatic shift that has fundamentally altered the nature of our city and its cultural influencers.

Muslims now represent the second largest immigrant faith group (14%), trailing only Catholics at 26%. Protestant numbers have plummeted to 12%, ahead of Sikhs at 7%, Buddhists at 5% and Hindus at 3%. Jewish immigration remains at 1%. The percentage of Christians immigrating to Calgary has dropped in 40 years from 83% to 49%.   Should this trend continue for the next 20 years, only 32% of new immigrants to Calgary will be Christian while as many as one in four may be Muslim and one in 10 Sikh.   It is not unreasonable to anticipate new numbers will show a continuation of these trends.

While the nature of Calgary’s faith affiliation has changed significantly, faith continues to be an identifying cultural characteristic in the lives of 8 in 10 Calgarians.

The one-in-four of the city’s citizens who attend an institution of faith on a weekly basis — a considerable commitment — represent roughly nine unique sold-out crowds at McMahon Stadium or two unique sell-outs a day, seven days a week at the Saddledome.

We recommend, therefore, that the city amend the Centre City Plan to recognize the vital role that institutions of faith play in the social architecture of a great city.

– Michael Van Pelt is president of Cardus.

Read the original article at http://www.calgarysun.com/2011/10/09/van-pelt-having-faith-in-our-city-core