June 18, 2016

30th Anniversary of the United Church Apology to Indiginous peoples

Thirty years! Wow, how time flies.  We’ve been working as a national church, to live into right relations since 1986.  Whether we call this land Turtle Island or North America, we have heard words spoken in 1986 and 1988 on our behalf.  Are we ready and willing to own them for ourselves?

I can only speak as a daughter of immigrants and settlers.  I am grateful for my forebearers coming to this country, some of whom came 80 years ago, and some who came more than 200 years ago.  But no matter when they came, they came for land and the promise of freedom.

Like Ahab, they faced a choice; would they respect the people who were already here and their ties to the land, or take what they thought they needed, regardless of the implications.  Jezebel’s evil advice, “Are you the King or not?” was a seductive call to see oneself as intrinsically superior to another, and that an individual can use his greed to justify violating not just another individual’s rights, but his spiritual and cultural ties to land.  The culture in the days of Ahab and Naboth was that land was not something that one could buy or sell, but was a gift from God that was to be nurtured and passed down to the next generation.  That understanding was not convenient for kings and governments. 

Ahab chose power over empathy, and manipulation over honesty.  He chose selfish convenience over the human rights and dignity of another person.

Jesus chose a different way.  He encountered the paralytic man, not with a spirit of convenience or power or greed, but one of empathy.  He could even have felt guilty that he himself was able to walk, he could have listened to the Pharisees and done what was politically expedient to avoid trouble.  Instead, he chose compassion and action.  Just as Elijah had, he named that God cared about those who seemed to be outside society.  The Pharisees may have believed that a man who is paralyzed has offended God and deserves his disability.  Instead Jesus saw the man as one to be treated with dignity and empathy.

So the question remains for us all.  How do we own the apology and live into right relations today in Athabasca?  How do we move out of our fears and disrespect for those who live here who are coming from a different culture?  We non-aboriginals might think it helps to feel guilty, but if that guilt leads to inaction, then we can become paralyzed into non-action.  And of course I can’t speak for indigenous folks, but I can choose to be more like Jesus and less like Ahab.

So I would ask you to take a few moments to ponder some questions:

What is the nature of the paralysis that First Nations communities may be experiencing? That the church may be experiencing?

Who are the persistent friends, determined that Indigenous peoples and the church find healing?

What barriers need to be removed?

What question is in your heart related to forgiveness?

Where do you see yourself in this? 

Where do you find hope?

No comments: