Introduction

This article has two parts. It begins with T.V. Thomas' annual report on South Asians in 2003 and is followed by a related write up by Pritam Singh's on "Targeting the Second Generation".

Ministering to South Asians in Canada in 2003

This two-part report is supplemental to what had been submitted for the 2002 Consultation (see below). First, the report presents some insights culled from the newly released 2001 Census of the religious affiliations of Canada's population of 31 million. Secondly, the report will highlight seven salient trends related to South Asians and Christian ministries in Canada over the last 10 years.

Religious Affiliations in Canada

Source: 2001 Census, Statistics Canada

Religious Affiliation Number of People 2001 Percentage of 2001 Percentage of Change 1991-2001
Roman Catholic 12.8 million 43.2 4.8
Protestant 8.7 million 29.2 -8.2
Christian Orthodox 479,620 1.8 23.8
Christian (other) 780,450 2.6 121.1
Muslim 579,640 2.0 128.9
Jewish 329,995 1.1 3.7
Buddhist 300,345 1.0 89.8
Hindu 297,200 1.0 89.3
Sikh 278,415 1.0 88.8
No religion 4.8 million 16.0 43.9

Seven out of 10 Canadians were Roman Catholics and Protestants, accounting for nearly 21.5 million people combined. However, the proportion of Roman Catholics dropped from 45 percent to 43 percent while Protestants declined from 35 to 29 percent.

Protestants declined by 772,830 while Roman Catholics increased their ranks by 589,500.

The number of Canadians identifying themselves simply as "Christian" with no particular denomination or tradition indicated was up by 121.1 percent. People are drifting away from organized and institutionalized religion.

Sixteen percent of population have no religious affiliation compared to 4 percent in 1971 and 12 percent in 1991. Almost 40 percent of those with no religion were aged 24 and under.

Out of the 1.8 million immigrants between 1991 and 2001, one-fifth reported they had no religion, especially those coming from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

For the first time, Muslims outnumber Jews. Between 1991-2001 the number of Jews increased by 3.7 percent to 329,995 while Muslims increased by 128.9 percent to 579,640. Muslims accounted for 15 percent of immigrants to Canada in the past decade. Islam is currently the fastest growing religion in Canada.

There was an 83.8 percent increase in Buddhists, who now number 300,345. Only five percent of immigrants to Canada between 1991 and 2001 were Buddhists.

Seven percent of the past decade's immigrants were Hindus. There was a 89.3 percent increase in Hindus.

Sikh population is 278,415 strong. Five percent of immigrants between 1991 and 2001 were Sikhs.

Key Trends

1. Increased numbers of South Asians are migrating from the Middle East to Canada.

With limited opportunities for permanent residence coupled with political instability and insecurity in the Middle East, many South Asians are immigrating to Canada. Canada has become the country of choice of South Asians because of a shorter immigration-processing period. A majority of the immigrants are able to establish a middle-class lifestyle instantly because they have been able to transfer their savings after long careers in the Gulf region.

2. Increased number of South Asian Roman Catholic priests serving in Canada.

With the alarming drop in Canadian Roman Catholics entering the priesthood there is an acute shortage of personnel to serve in Roman Catholic parishes. Hence, the Roman Catholic dioceses are recruiting seasoned Roman Catholic priests from India and the Philippines to serve in Caucasian congregations especially in rural areas. With the early recruits having proven to be successful in their ministry and service, efforts are being stepped-up to recruit more from both countries.

3. Increased number of Second Generation South Asians are marrying outside their heritage and roots.

By sheer observation (and not through scientific research) it is quite safe to conclude that there are more and more Second Generation South Asians marrying individuals outside their culture, race, and/or religion.

4. Increased interest in Christian ministry by Second Generation South Asian Christians.

The last two decades have seen few Second Generation South Asians going into full-time vocational Christian ministry. Rare exceptions are Steve Bains who serves as Pastor of Evangelism in Surrey Alliance Church, Surrey, British Columbia and Santosh Ninan ministering to youth at First Baptist Church, Vancouver, British Columbia. A few more are now enrolled in part-time and full-time training at theological institutions across the country.

5. Increased vision by the Canadian Church to reach South Asians.

There is a small but growing awareness, desire, and involvement by Canadian Christians, congregations, denominations and ministry agencies in evangelizing unsaved South Asians. September 11, 2001 and subsequent incidents of global terrorism and violence have certainly contributed to this welcome mood change and momentum tempo.

6. Increased creativity is being used in ministries to reach South Asians.

The variety of approaches employed in South Asian ministries include:

- Organized the "International South Asian Diaspora Leaders Consultation 2003."
- Airing radio and television evangelistic programs.
- Distributing Bibles and JESUS videos in vernacular languages.
- Offering practical help to new immigrants...helping find suitable housing, filling forms, writing resumes, giving driving lessons, etc.
- Teaching new Canadians how to read, write and speak English.
- Organizing Summer family camps.
- Visiting homes and extending hospitality.
- Hosting a prayer center and/or prayer line.
- Offering seminars on Marriage, Parenting, Money Management, etc.

7. Increased number of First Generation South Asian Christians in ministry leadership roles.

More than two decades ago there were less than a dozen South Asians in full-time vocational Christian ministry in Canada. There has been an escalate increase in personnel in local church ministry and para-church ministries across Canada.

SUMMARY

The spiritual harvest among South Asians in Canada is still a trickle. It is hoped that the persevering prayer and the diligent sowing of the Word in the matrix of authentic and loving relationships will result in a greater yield in the near future.