The first Wednesday of the month is my charity feature – well today this first Wednesday in December, I am changing it up. I feel like I am to shed light on a difficult subject – I know, I know, - “again”.
It is fitting for this space because I think we as a Canadian people need to show “charity” to this topic. What is the definition of “charity”- Merriam-Webster says:
1 benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
2 generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also aid given to those in need
Before I get the eye rolls and head nods, I want to preface this subject with the following: I as a Canadian citizen was very ignorant of this subject, yes I had heard about it, I mean who had not, but I had not taken the time, the due diligence to know more about it. Now that I am working in the school library and seeing some of the effects of this subject up close and personal standing right in front of me – I have been forced to open my eyes and look around me at “real” people still hurting and still being affected. I have often wondered why God sent me to this library – I am beginning to get glimpses.
The subject – residential schools.
(The Witness Blanket - witnessblanket.ca)
The studies show that the ramifications of this will be felt for seven generations. We are only partially there my friends. I know people whose grandmother or grandfather and whose parents were in residential schools. Seven generations – the effects of this will linger for a long while further. It is not going away any time soon. I am frustrated at hearing others say – “Oh I am so tired of hearing about this again”. I am shocked at the rudeness of others to try to shut it up and make these real life events go away so they will not have to look at them. For sure it can make us “feel” bad when we hear their real life horror accounts and yet we think nothing of turning on our tv’s and watching crime, murder and sexual scenes on our favorite sitcoms and movies for our “entertainment.”
Now before you push the exit button or the little “x” in the corner please consider this – the number of children affected – yes that is right, “children” affected is not totally known but the statistics say about 150,000 children were affected by residential schools.(*1) The number is not truly known because many of those children “disappeared” and were never counted – in some cases from certain schools up to 40 to 75% of the children died either at school or when they were sent home critically ill. (*2) Almost “all” suffered or saw abuse that no child should ever experience.
Let me share a story with you: (italics are mine)
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers (the church). They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (like these children) 31 A priest (the church) happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, (the church) when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, (the enemy) as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” Luke 10:30-35
In the name of “God” the church and government did these things to the native peoples and just like the priest and Levite in the above story – they did not wish to touch the “mess” lying on the other side of the road. God is NOT to blame for these acts, people are, but Gods name and honor has been severely maligned by these actions. I know we have already given a “formal” Government apology and countless dollars to show how much we as a country are “sorry.” (*3) I know abuses on either side have and are still happening. I know some people are abusing the system. But the problem is not going to go away soon, and we do have broken bodies lying on the other side of the road, so what should we, could we, as people do?
As a Christian, a person who wishes to represent God, now an enemy in the minds of many natives, I need to very carefully consider how I rush in in the name of “God” to “help” the mess. After all the original mess was created by people who were supposed to represent God. If we study the good Samaritan story it is blatantly obvious how to help – the good Samaritan took pity, showed mercy and by his actions (not his words – there are no words even recorded in this story) showed his love to his neighbor.
So I need to ask myself and I challenge you – WHO WILL YOU CROSS THE ROAD FOR?
Will you or I be like the priest and Levite who traveled by the damaged, broken body lying there on the other side of the road? Or will I cross the road to go help and offer assistance?
We have broken, damaged and bruised people all around us, (not just native people – who in your life is someone you consider beyond hope, or you believe they will not change, you have given up on them), will we ignore them and hope they go away or will we step over the line, cross the road and offer our love? You see LOVE will win every time. We do not have to talk, give a sermon – we just have to love.
At this Christmas season when we celebrate the Love of God that was sent to the world in the form of a baby, no one on earth had any idea what kind of sacrificial love that little baby represented. Because of that little baby the world has never been the same – why? Because of His love. Let’s go forth and do likewise.
Notes & Footnotes:
**The Witness Blanket
A member of my school showed me this web site called -The Witness Blanket. “A beautiful piece of art reflecting one of Canada’s ugliest chapters” – is how it is described. It is a blanket that represents the memories of thousands of children and parents and their experiences in the Residential schools. It is on display throughout Canada in various cities and dates, even the monarchy – William and Kate were supposed to go and see it. It is remarkable and worth taking a look at, if it comes to or near your city be sure to go. Go to: witnessblanket.ca
*1. “Initially, about 1,100 students attended 69 schools across the country. In 1931, at the peak of the residential school system, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada. There were a total of about 130 schools in every territory and province except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick from the earliest in the 19th century to the last, which closed in 1996. In all, about 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools.” CBC News Posted May 16, 2008, Updated March 21, 2016 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/a-history-of-residential-schools-in-canada-1.702280
*2. The University of British Columbia – The Residential School Program
*3. Prime Minister Steven Harper said the following:
"...Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child.” Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country…. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly..."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, official apology, June 11, 2008