After two years of research on Asian religious organization in British Columbia, a team of 12 local scholars, led by Dan Overmyer from the Centre for Chinese Research, Don Baker from the Centre for Korean Research, and Larry Devries from Langara College, will submit to UBC Press a book-length collection of papers on the Asian components in BC’s religious culture.
That BC is host to many different religious communities with Asian roots is obvious to anyone who drives along No.5 Road in Richmond. Along, or just off that road, can be found a Gurdwara for the Sikh community, the Ram Krishna Mandir Vedic Cultural Society for Hindus, the Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre for Shia Muslims, the Jami'a Mosque for Sunni Muslims, the Ling Yen Mountain Temple for Chinese Buddhists, the Richmond Chinese Evangelical Free Church, and the Fujian Evangelical Church, with a predominantly Filipino-Chinese congregation. That is, of course, just a small sample of the Asian religious institutions in BC. There are mosques, Sikh and Buddhist temples, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean churches scattered all over the Lower Mainland, as well as on Vancouver Island and in the Interior.
The contributions to this proposed book explore the role those Asian religious organizations play in British Columbia today. By Asian religious organizations, the authors mean both those with a membership that is mostly ethnically Asian as well as those with a multi-ethnic membership that focus on religious traditions with roots in Asia. By including both types of organizations in our study, we are able to discuss both the role religious organizations play in fortifying ethnic solidarity as well as the role they play in creating a diverse religious culture in Canada’s Pacific Rim province.
Most of the British Columbian communities surveyed in this volume are composed primarily of people with ancestral roots in Asia who maintain an affiliation with a religious tradition that is a significant part of the culture of their ancestral home. Many in those communities are first-generation immigrants who have joined with others who share not only their religious beliefs and values but also their culture as well to form what we call “ethno-religious communities.” However, we also found communities formed around Asian religions such as Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism that have members from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
The twelve chapters in the proposed book, and their authors, are as follows:
1. The Making of Sikh Space in British Columbia: The Central Role of the Gurdwara, by Kamala Nayar, Kwantlen University College
2. Realizing the Ummah in British Columbia: Religion, Ethnicity and the Double Diaspora of Asian Muslims, by Derryl MacLean, Simon Fraser University
3. Zoroastrians in British Columbia, by Rastin Mehri, Simon Fraser University
4. Tibetan Buddhism in B.C. by Marc des Jardins, Concordia University
5. The Japanese Religious Landscape in British Columbia, by Michael Newton, Simon Fraser University
6. Sri Lankan and Burmese Buddhism in B.C., by Bandu Madanayake, independent scholar
7. Thai and Lao Buddhism in B.C., by Jim Placzek, Langara College
8. Chinese Religions in British Columbia: Strategies for Self Definition, by Paul Crowe, Simon Fraser University
9. Vietnamese Buddhism and New Religions, by Van Phan, University of British Columbia
10. Hindu Groups in B.C., by Larry DeVries, Langara College
11. Christianity as a Chinese Belief in B.C., by Yu Li, Langara College
12. Shelter from the Storm: Korean Religious Groups in B.C., (with additional comments about Filipino and Japanese Protestant churches and Catholic churches with Asian congregations), by Don Baker, University of British Columbia
Since 1971, ethnic relations in Canada have been guided by an official policy of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism represents an attempt to create a national community that is inclusive while recognizing linguistic and ethnic differences within Canadian society. This book will address the question of how well that policy has worked. Afro-Americans have long pointed out that, in the US, the most segregated hour of the week is 10 am on Sunday, when most churches have services. Is the same true of Canada? Do Asian religious organization help people of Asian ethnicity, especially recent immigrants, feel a part of the Canadian national community or do they reinforce divisions of Canadian society into separate and distinct ethnic communities? If the latter is the case, is that a problem we should worry about or is it a positive phenomenon, one that contributes to the multi-cultural mosaic we Canadians like to brag about? The chapters that follow will aid our search for answers to those questions.