Young immigrants to Canada passionate about spirituality

August 8, 2016

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Boh-Ryung Kim and her parents rarely attended religious events in their native South Korea.

But, since Kim arrived in Canada in 2000, Roman Catholicism has become a big part of her inner and outer life, offering hope and belonging.

“When we came to Canada, we didn’t have any family,” said, Kim, 22. “Going to church was a way to get to know people and have a sense of community.”

Much the same could be said for Ajaz Shaikh, 30, who arrived in B.C. from India four years ago. His devotion to Islam has grown deeper since he came to a country where he knew virtually no one, and halal meat was hard to find.

The spiritual commitments of Kim and Shaik illustrate a trend captured by Statistics Canada and pollsters at the Angus Reid Institute: Young immigrants to Canada have an unusually high rate of religious commitment.

Angus Reid discovered that millennial-age immigrants are more than twice as likely as Canadian-born residents to take part in religious activities, whether Christian, Sikh or Muslim.

Half of recent immigrants between ages 18 and 34 told Angus Reid pollsters they attend a religious institution at least once a month in Canada, which is also a higher rate than among older immigrants.

As a result of in-migration, Canadian sociologist of religion Reginald Bibby says, institutional religion is far from dying in Canada, despite the emphasis journalists and academics place on the expansion of secularism.

Before Kim began attending St. Mark’s parish on the University of B.C. campus, where she is a science student, she had been going to St. Andrew Kim Catholic Church in Surrey, which has 6,500 members, almost all ethnic Koreans.

“My faith helps me adjust to a completely different environment, which can be tough. My faith gives direction in my life,” says Kim. “A lot of my friends are Catholic immigrants.”

Before Kim began attending St. Mark’s parish on the University of B.C. campus, where she is a science student, she had been going to St. Andrew Kim Catholic Church in Surrey, which has 6,500 members, almost all of them ethnic Koreans.

Five other Roman Catholic mega-churches in Metro Vancouver serve either predominantly Korean, Chinese, Filipino or Vietnamese members, largely in their languages. Scores of evangelical Protestant churches in Metro are ethnic specific.

Roman Catholics make up the largest immigrant group to Canada, with 478,000 arriving in the decade up to 2011. Those with “no religion” were the next largest group of immigrants, at 442,000. They were followed by 388,000 Muslims; 162,000 “other” Christians (mostly evangelicals); 154,000 Hindus; 108,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians and 107,700 Sikhs.

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