Brian Dijkema ’04 says he was deeply moved when he learned he’d been selected as Redeemer’s 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award winner.
“There’s nothing so lovely as to be honoured by those you care about.”
And care about Redeemer, he does. Since graduating with a bachelor of arts in political science and humanities nearly 20 years ago, Dijkema hasn’t stopped singing the praises of an educational experience he says was a watershed for him.
The liberal arts and sciences education he gained at Redeemer has been critical to his career path and to the work he is currently doing, Dijkema says. Since 2011, he’s been working for Cardus, a Christian non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good. For the past five years, his role as vice-president of external affairs has him working in policy, stakeholder relations and public relations, making presentations on Parliament Hill and contributing to newspapers and journals. He’s also the senior editor of Comment Magazine, one of the core publications of Cardus. Dijkema helps translate the work of Cardus’ policy research in education, child care, family, health care, religious freedom, work and economics into practical possibilities for communities. His work has resulted in tangible legal change and shifts in Canadian public policy debate.
“The liberal arts education I received at Redeemer helped me read the world, understand the world and understand what it means to be human… and it helped make me attentive to the ways that policy can humanize and dehumanize,” he says. “Having that education and, more importantly, being formed to think, to notice and to attend to these things is critical for doing my work right now.”
He describes that work as helping policy makers, businesses and associations properly order their relationships to one another as human beings and as communities.
Dijkema orders his life and relationships around his faith. Working in public policy and politics, he often sees a messy and dark side of the world. He sees people who are looking for power for their own gain, and he sees a lot of callousness towards those who are suffering. He says his faith is what gives him hope when the world seems hopeless.
… it’s a Gospel of love. It’s one that does not impose its vision of good upon you, but it creates the environment in which you can have an encounter with the person of Jesus.
“We serve somebody who has died, gone to hell, returned and is in heaven! Not just metaphorically, but actually. That should change things. The reality that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is life-changing for me.”
As a person of faith living out the Gospel, and working with diverse stakeholders, his faith and worldview can’t be separated from the work that he does.
“I deal with people who are skeptical of Christianity and particularly skeptical when you say you’re going to take it into the public square,” he says. He meets and works with people with a variety of different views on how society should operate. “I’m of the mind that 2,000 years of Christian social teaching shows us the best way to form [communities] for everyone whether you’re a Christian or not. This is because it’s a Gospel of love. It’s one that does not impose its vision of good upon you, but it creates the environment in which you can have an encounter with the person of Jesus. It’s not imposed, it’s proposed; it’s a lover’s proposition. The biggest thing I try to do at my work in a world that is often callous and dehumanizing, is to help people see how lovely and ultimately liberating the Christian tradition is.”
This posture towards others often plays out in meetings and events where Cardus actively seeks to interact with diverse people groups.
Success is not primarily about getting what you want; whether in politics or riches, or social standing. It’s about becoming fully human. And what does it mean to be fully human? It means to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
“We try as much as possible to bring in people we disagree with, so we can have real conversations … We live in a very polarized age and I think the possibilities of real face-to-face encounters are greater than we imagine. People’s willingness to have those, if they’re done in good faith and charitably, are far greater than we can imagine too, and allow people to both notice the freshness of Christian faith. This provides people with a new imagination for public debate that is missing in a world that, realistically, often acts in bad faith.”
Dijkema’s faith shapes the way he interacts with his family, his church, his community and his province, and ultimately shapes how he defines success.
“Success is not primarily about getting what you want; whether in politics or riches, or social standing. It’s about becoming fully human. And what does it mean to be fully human? It means to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” he says. His Redeemer education helped him to better understand what it means to be fully human by understanding the world through history, the sciences, mathematics, physics, and by understanding the human imagination through art. “I think Redeemer is a rare place that provides you with a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be a human in the world. I think that’s what Redeemer offers, and that’s why I recommend it to every kid I know.”
Dijkema will be presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award at a reception on September 26, 2023 during Redeemer’s Alumni Week.