Resources

Religion

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Salvadoreans/Lisa Kowalchuk

It is reasonable to assume that the religious identity of Salvadoreans in Canada resembles that of the homeland, which is about 80 percent Roman Catholic. That assumption agrees with the results of a Montreal survey conducted the early 1980s, which found as well that not all Salvadoreans practise their faith. Several Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in major Canadian cities that offer services in Spanish and English attract large numbers of Salvadoreans. As in the homeland, some individuals belong to Protestant denominations.

A number of Salvadoreans in Canada are members of Christian base communities, groups of people that meet informally for worship, often in private homes. In El Salvador and throughout Latin America these groups arose from efforts by the Catholic clergy to implement the social doctrines of the Second Vatican Council of 1962–65 and the Medellín conference of Latin American bishops in 1968. These concepts, which gave rise to liberation theology, stress the church’s obligation to address injustice and empower the poor to improve their conditions. The Christian base communities in El Salvador cultivated widespread support for the insurgent forces.

In Canada, Christian base communities have tried to establish a presence in various Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in order to promote the celebration of the popular Mass characteristic of the communities throughout Latin America. These attempts have not met with much success. Opposition by right-wing Central Americans obstructed the efforts of one community in several Catholic parishes in Toronto. Some members also attribute the lack of support to the Canadian clergy’s aversion to the political stance implied in their position on injustices in El Salvador.

Currently, the Salvadorean Christian base communities in Toronto hold popular Masses on special occasions and support a weekly “celebration of the Word.” A form of worship typical of the communities in El Salvador, this observance does not include the sacraments and is led by lay preachers rather than priests. Like the popular Mass, it incorporates a denouncement of social injustice and proposes solutions based on Christian faith. The concern of the communities for justice is also evident in their sponsorship of socio-economic projects on behalf of impoverished groups in the homeland.