Today in Canada, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made public. For those unaware, the TRC had a mandate to “inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission document[ed] the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience.”
In my opinion, this treatment of indigenous Canadians, called a “cultural genocide” by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is the most shameful period in Canadian history. In a CBC report, it was revealed that a First Nations student was more likely to die in a residential school (1 in 25 chance) than a Canadian soldier was in the Second World War (1 in 26 chance).
These schools alienated, appropriated, oppressed, abused, even killed. And the Church in Canada not only let this go on, we took an active part. The Christian faithful, who ask God every day: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” –
we led the Christianization and “Canadianization” of indigenous Canadians.
In 1968, the United Church of Canada adopted “A New Creed” – a contemporary statement of faith. For those unfamiliar with this creed, here it is:
We are not alone,
- we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
- who has created and is creating,
- who has come in Jesus,
- the Word made flesh,
- to reconcile and make new,
- who works in us and others
- by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
- to celebrate God’s presence,
- to live with respect in Creation,
- to love and serve others,
- to seek justice and resist evil,
- to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
- our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
- God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
All day today, I pondered and reflected this creed, my Canadian identity, my Christian identity, and the TRC. For Christians, how can we claim to “seek justice and resist evil”, yet do the exact opposite of “loving and serving others”? I find it so hard to articulate my feelings of shame and self-anger.
Jesus, the “Word made Flesh” came to “reconcile and make new”. Somewhere along the lines, we decided that brutalizing Canada’s First Peoples would be justified once they were converted and “more European”. It wasn’t. It never could be.
This creed almost serves as stark irony against a backdrop such as the Indian Residential Schools. Yet today, as the TRC presents its report to Canadians, I can do nothing other than humble myself to our indigenous co-Canadians and offer my most heartfelt apologies for atrocities against them as humans, as a culture, as a people. That is all I can do today.
But tomorrow is another day. Now that the truth has come out, the reconciliation must begin. That is now our work as the hands and feet of Christ. As I said in my last post, we are called to uncomfortability. We are called to feel the pain of our indigenous brothers and sisters. We are called to put an end to oppression, racism, and all forms of discrimination. We are ALL one in Christ. We are ALL God’s children. To do anything else other than openly embrace one another would be to violate our relationship with the Divine.
He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Jesus taught us to live in service to others. It is now time to “seek justice and resist evil” and, as the hands and feet of Christ, “to reconcile and make new”. Our apologies mean nothing without action.
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”
For in every person affected by discrimination at our hands, is the Holy One.
I offer my apologies and pledge solidarity with our indigenous neighbours. I understand you may not be able to accept it, but we are called to stand up for and with you. We need to work to regain trust, to rebuild right relationships, to give dignity and autonomy back to those from whom we stole it.
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.