Time for Reconciliation KAIROS Gathering
Truth and Reconciliation. Two words of courage. Two words of hope.
For the past five years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, has pursued its mandate to inform Canadians what happened in the residential schools and their long-term effects on generations of First Nations peoples. The TRC has crossed the country hearing stories, listening attentively, collecting information, and hearing truth, in the hope that reconciliation is possible between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Truth must come first. Chaired by Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission began by listening to the stories of residential school survivors. These schools, run by both the church and the federal government, had the sole purpose to “civilize” the Indigenous child and to destroy a culture deemed inferior by the colonizing culture. At the best of it, the residential schools were supposed to house and feed children and give them an education in skills and trades so that they could support themselves and their families. At the very worst, these schools ripped children away from their homes, parents, roots, language and culture, where they suffered under loneliness, abuse, neglect, and death.
The last of the residential schools closed in the 1990’s. That means this is very recent history, not some history long ago or long forgotten. The consequences of this history live on in memories, in bodies, in souls, in the land.
Truths were spoken; hard truths. It took tremendous courage to speak them, it takes willingness and an open heart to hear them. But truth, as we know, is absolutely vital for healing. As Canadians, and as the church, we are called to bear witness to these things.
Second, hopefully, comes reconciliation. At our national assembly in 2011, we committed ourselves as a church to learning, walking with, and helping foster right relationship with Indigenous peoples. It is our mission as ELCIC congregations to learn what we do not know, to combat racist attitudes within ourselves and outside ourselves, and, if possible, to walk with our sisters and brothers of the First Nations.
To learn more, you can go on the Truth and Reconciliation Canada website and hear or read of previous events and learnings (www.trc.ca). KAIROS Canada (www.kairoscanada.org) also has a lot of information and it has a schedule of events and registration information for events coming up at the end of May, beginning of June, in Ottawa for the celebrations around the final report from the TRC.
Truth and reconciliation. Courage and hope. These are words we know intimately as followers of Christ. Let us walk together as Christians, as Canadians, and as First Nations peoples toward the healing of the generations.
Rev. Katherine Altenburg, Director of Public Policy and Service Ministries