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Montreal’s immigrant mix reflected in Canadian ‘autoroutes’ 10 & 40


MONTREAL (BP)–Turn back to the Canada section of almost any road atlas, search for the province of Quebec and then look for a map of Montreal.

Standing out are two highways — “autoroutes” in Quebec — 10 coming from the south and 40 going east-west across the island of Montreal.

The autoroute numbers symbolize the increasing role the largest city in the mostly French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec plays as home to immigrants representing many of the world’s ethnic groups, including newcomers from what missions experts call 10-40 Window countries.

Because Montreal culture remains predominantly French and English, current Southern Baptist churches in the city are aimed primarily at the French- and English-speaking populations. In addition, Canadian Convention of Southern Baptist churches already exist for Haitian, Greek, Romanian, Korean and Spanish-speaking groups.

Leaders also are developing strategies to plant churches among Montreal’s numerous other ethnic groups.

“There are plenty of ethnic groups here,” Georges Boujakly, North American Mission Board church planter/catalyst in Montreal, said. “The key is to find leaders who are not bogged down by the traditional ways of doing things that they have imported.”

As in the United States, immigration has played a key role in the development of Quebec and other parts of Canada. According to Statistics Canada, after accounting for those coming from the United States, Great Britain and France, most immigrants to Quebec since Canadian Confederation in 1867 have come from Italy, Haiti, Lebanon, Greece, Vietnam, Portugal and Poland.

The same Canadian government agency reports that from 1991 to 1996 (the latest years statistics are available) most immigrants arriving in Quebec originated from Haiti, Lebanon, France, the People’s Republic of China, Romania, Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Morocco.

Six of these nations — Lebanon, China, Philippines, India, Vietnam and Morocco — lie within the 10-40 Window, regarded as the core of the unreached people of the world, extending from West Africa to East Asia, from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator, and encompassing the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

Additional statistics indicate persons representing more than 80 language groups live in Montreal. Groups with more than 5,000 people each are Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Creole, Armenian, Polish, Russian, Tamil, Romanian, Farsi, Khmer and Punjabi.

“There is a great need for new churches among all of these groups,” Boujakly said. “There is no doubt that Montreal is a strategic city for reaching many different ethnic and language groups.”

Boujakly said the most likely new ethnic church would be another Spanish-speaking congregation because of the abundance of SBC resources available in Spanish. Such a church, he said, would need a strong leader.

“Several of the countries where most of the Spanish-speakers in Montreal come from — Mexico, El Salvador, Chile, Cuba — don’t get along” from political and other standpoints, “but with a strong leader, they can do it,” he said.

In addition to planting churches designed for new immigrants, Boujakly said another priority aims at reaching the children of immigrants.

“Often, the original church caters to the parents, and the children are forgotten,” he said. “They either start going to other churches or just fall by the wayside.”

He also said many second-generation immigrants in Montreal become caught between two worlds — their old ethnic group identity and the new French- and English-dominated culture surrounding them.

For that reason, Southern Baptist leaders in Quebec are interested in starting “international” churches, such as one they would like to see started in Laval, a Montreal suburb where many second-generation persons of Italian and Greek descent live.

“The affinity for such churches would not be on the ethnic identity, but on whether services are in English or French, their age group, their worldview,” Boujakly said.

A related phenomenon has been a surge in the number of house churches. While the term “house church” often evokes images of secretive meetings in restricted nations, Boujakly said Montreal contains what he calls “dozens and dozens and dozens” of small congregations meeting in private homes or apartments.

Boujakly has recently started visiting an Armenian house church in the Montreal suburb of Ville St-Laurent, where as many as 47 people congregate in one home.

“They are usually organized along ethnic lines,” he said. “Among more-educated persons, the service will be in French, but the conversation will be in the native language. Among persons with less education, both the service and the conversation will be in the native language.”

Along with leadership skills, Boujakly said potential ethnic church pastors should possess sensitivity and flexibility.

“We need someone who knows or is willing to learn the ethnic group’s culture and the group’s way of thinking,” he said.
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Campbell is a reporter with The Morning Sun, Pittsburg, Kan., who has had a longtime heart for Southern Baptist work in Canada. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: IMMIGRANT INFLUX.

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  • Harold Campbell