October 27 – October 27, 2018
Fourth Avenue Baptist Church, Ottawa, ON. Learn More »
Dave Diewert is one of the featured speakers for our 2016 Summer Conference. We were recently able to ask him a few questions to learn more about him and his passion for social justice.
Originally from Vancouver, BC, Dave took the academic route through most of his life, teaching biblical languages and literature at Regent College for two and a half decades, and periodically at the University of British Columbia. Fifteen years ago he left his full-time academic career to venture into the marginalized world of low-income communities in East Vancouver. There he encountered the structural violence of poverty, homelessness, discrimination and oppression, as well as the beauty and dignity of those discarded by mainstream settler-colonial society. Spurred on by the biblical call to justice, he helped establish Streams of Justice in 2007, a social justice group that invites people of faith to stumble together along the paths of decolonization, solidarity, resistance, and liberation.
BPFNA: What led you to become involved in your current peace and justice work? When or how did you know this was the work you were called to do?
DD: Although I had a vague and sporadic interest in issues of poverty as a young adult, my journey along the path of seeking justice really began while on a graduate scholarship to Jerusalem in 1988-89. It was the second year of the first Intifada (Palestinian uprising) and I experienced a sustained engagement with the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation. It forced me to question my faith, my academic career and the fundamental trajectory of my life, and launched me along the social justice path. When I returned to Canada in 1989, I knew that whatever else I did, I needed to engage somehow in the fight against oppression in all its forms. It has taken many forms since then and has been a slow journey of trying to understand systemic injustice and find ways to stand in solidarity with impacted communities against poverty, displacement and discrimination. Twenty-five years later, I’m still on the learning curve.
BPFNA: What gives you strength and what keeps you motivated to do this work?
DD: There are some very powerful currents of liberation within the biblical witness and faith communities (currently and historically) that have inspired me and pushed me along. In addition, I’ve had the honour of being among activists, organizers, Indigenous land-defenders, critical thinkers, and people in communities of struggle whose courage, strength and wisdom have kept me on this path.
BPFNA: Who inspires you? Who are your role models?
DD: I’m not too fond of the term “role model,” but there have been many who have inspired me, encouraged, supported me, and taught me a lot about the structures of oppression, inequality and the need to address root causes. They make up a “cloud of witnesses”, some of whom I have never met, and others whom I work with regularly in my local context. In various ways, they inspire me to keep fighting and thinking, living and reflecting on the call to justice.
BPFNA: What do you hope Summer Conference attendees take away from this week focused on breaking social and structural injustice?
DD: I think we all need to keep learning about and analyzing the material and ideological, political and economic structures of power and oppression; and as we probe and unpack them, we can organize together to get at the roots of the injustice we face. My hope is that we can deepen our analysis, formulate strategies of resistance, continue to build communities of struggle, and resolve to sustain the hard work of organizing for liberation.
BPFNA: What’s one thing people can do in their own communities to raise awareness about or work toward changing these systems of injustice?
DD: A constant struggle we face is the colonization of our minds and imaginations. The dominant discourse of neo-liberal capitalism (competitive individualism, wealth accumulation, private property ownership, endless consumption, etc.) has saturated our consciousness so that market solutions to social problems are the only options on the table. I think efforts at popular education and collective actions alongside oppressed people loosen its hold on our minds, hearts and habits so that we can embody new forms of relating to one another and to the earth. Some practical ideas might include local reading and discussion groups, independent newspapers rooted in the experiences and perspectives of marginalized communities, actions of solidarity with oppressed people, and campaigns that resist policies that produce poverty, displacement and discrimination.