Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Importance of Ethnicity and Religion in the Lire Cycle of Immigrant Churches: A Comparison of Coptic and Calvinist Churches

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Importance of Ethnicity and Religion in the Lire Cycle of Immigrant Churches: A Comparison of Coptic and Calvinist Churches

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper explores the stages of ethnic and religious adaptation and transformation of two immigrant groups: Christian Orthodox Egyptians--Copts--and Dutch Canadian Calvinists. While the Copts are relatively new to the religious tapestry of North America, the Calvinists established churches and other ethno/religious structures soon after their arrival in Ontario after World War II. Established Coptic migrant churches are "vessels of faith"; a source of emotional rejuvenation to nostalgic migrants; institutions for the retention and negotiation of an ethno- religious identity in immigrant societies; and facilitators for the integration of newcomers. Religious identity was more important than ethnic identity in the establishment of Dutch Calvinist churches and other organizations. The orthodox Calvinists, who believe that all of life is religious, undertook the building of their own structures because they could not find Canadian organizations based on their ideological and religious beliefs. The literature on other Canadian immigrant groups provides a context for the comparison between the Copts and the Dutch Calvinists. Research for both groups is based on oral histories and on historical information. The theoretical framework for this study is Driedger's (1996, 39) model of voluntary pluralism and integration.

Resume

Cet article porte sur les etapes de l'adaptation ethnique et religieuse et la transformation de deux groupes immigrants : les Chretiens othodoxes coptes d'Egypte et les Calvinistes canadienshollandais. Tandis que les Coptes sont relativement nouveaux dans ta toile de fond religieuse de l'Amerique du Nord, les Calvinistes ont fonde des temples et d'autres etablissements ethnoreligieux des leur arrivee en Ontario apres la deuxieme guerre mondiale. Les eglises coptes sont des "vaisseaux de foi" : une source de rejuvenation emotionnelle pour des immigrants nostalgiques, des institutions pour sauvegarder et accomoder une identite ethno-religieuse dans leurs associations, et un intermediaire pour faciliter l'integration des nouveaux arrivants. L'identite religieuse etait plus importante que l'identite ethnique pour les Calvinistes quand ils ont fonde leurs temples et autres organisations. Les Calvinistes orthodoxes, qui croient que tout est religieux dans la vie, ont decide de batir leurs propres edifices parce qu'ils ne trouvaient pas d'organisations canadiennes basees sur leurs convictions ideologiques et religieuses. La documentation sur d'autres groupes immigrants au Canada fournit un contexte qui permet de comparer Coptes et Calvinistes hollandais. Les recherches sur les deux groupes sont basees sur des recits oraux et sur de l'information historique. Le cadre theorique de cette etude suit le modele du pluralisme et de l'integration volontaire de Driedger (1996, 39).

INTRODUCTION

This paper explores the stages of ethnic and religious adaptation and transformation of two immigrant groups: Christian Orthodox Egyptians--Copts--and Dutch Canadian Calvinists. Coptic immigrants established Coptic churches in Canada and the United States to serve as institutions for the retention and negotiation of an ethno-religious identity for their members. Religious identity was more important than ethnic identity in the establishment of Dutch-Canadian Calvinist churches and other organizations which were based on ideological and religious principles.

Religion and religious institutions played a salient role in the lives of immigrants and their children (Warner and Wittner 1998; Smith 1978; Williams 1988). As early as the 1920s, Herberg (1960, 27-28) argued that, for the immigrant to the United States, "it was largely in and through his religion that he, or rather his children and grandchildren, found an identifiable place in American life." Smith (1978) went further, arguing that immigration in itself is a "theologizing experience" whereby immigrants become more religious as they settle in a new country. …

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