First Nations Reconciliation



for years the Aboriginal people of Canada have carried around the scars that have come from years of pain neglect and turmoil recently a spotlight shone on this dark time in our national history when Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized to the millions of indigenous people who suffered at the hands of those who read residential schools years ago we now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that it created a void in many lives and communities and we apologize but according to many in the Aboriginal community there is still much more reconciliation that needs to take place between the indigenous people and other segments of our society one of those being the church recently that was the topic of a symposium held at the Tyndale University in college in Toronto Ontario sponsored by Lausanne Canada and World Vision invited to share their perspectives on the issue were two notable leaders bishop mark MacDonald the an Lincoln Church of Canada's first national indigenous bishop and Terry LeBlanc director of my people international a ministry to native North Americans I'd say that it's important that places like Tyndale and the students and faculty and others who might come here have the opportunity to to you know listen to the stories that we might have to share and the perspectives that we might want to bring to that and and I think mark and I have you know walked a lot of the same trail but we've walked some other kinds of trails and when we bring those together I there's an amazing intersection I think that happens and that intersection comes from years of ministering to Aboriginal people who they say have had difficulties over the years finding claiming and seeing their place in the church I think the the largest issue is that for many First Nations congregations particularly those that are related to European churches that have and that's most of them the the goal for them has often been described to become like us success has been measured not in terms of how they incarnate the living word of God but how they embody European culture and ideas and so that oftentimes you'll find that even when people were were expressing a biblical reality in their own culture it was criticized by mission execs and leaders European mission execs and leaders for not being sufficiently Christian when really what it was was not sufficiently European the challenge both men say is encouraging indigenous congregations they visit to find their own identity within the church and understand how to incorporate their culture into their spirituality the way that we do that is to say to describe very clearly radically and to demonstrate our commitment that the goal is the incarnation of the Living Word of God in their communities in other words that the Word of God that the the Living Word of God that we understand to be Jesus the Lord becomes living and real and and and and touchable within within their culture and within their life and and that that's difficult because again the the assumptions have always been you know you have to do it this way it's almost that almost as if Robert's Rules of Order was used by Paulin moments or something like that and it gets down to a radical commitment to seeing the primal gospel heard lived out and received within the community and that that isn't easy I mean that isn't easy on a personal level or on a corporate level it's even harder yeah I don't think we can underestimate when what mark is saying here to the the you know the the seminal questioned the germane question of the church from from its very early days that it's had to wrestle a struggle with is the question of why aren't you like me right from the book of Acts chapter 15 where they wrestled that question to the ground and actually proclaimed upon it pronounced upon it the means by which men and women irrespective of their ethnicity and and and language and and and the rest of the culture would come into faith in Christ and live that faith out the question was answered in a very straightforward simple way and the issue was in a sense at that moment put to rest and bury them the church has been bringing it back to life it's that feeling of separation that Terry says really needs healing and reconciliation we talk about reconciliation there needs to be some common understanding of what we are what we had in common to begin with you know so there's this understanding that there was some sort of relationship and commonality that to which we subscribed at the beginning that we've departed from that we now would need to return to that's so that's what it's about and so as we return to that we need to be careful that we describe that in a meaningful and important and biblical way not in a cultural way you know so I think that's that's crucial and that according to John Franklin one of the organizers of the symposium is where the conversation must start I think it's important for the church to talk about the issue of mission and power and get some clarity through the mistakes that we've committed in the past and hopefully not to do the same kind of thing in the future but unfortunately according to Bishop McDonald and Terry LeBlanc these conversations don't happen enough I think there are a lot of assumptions presuppositions and biases toward the issue again irrespective of the good intentions of people within churches and traditions of the church and so forth I think there are a lot of those presuppositions and biases that have that cloud people's eyes they they as again they assume that this way is the right way and and and so if if First Nations people would just get it and do it this way everything would be okay so you know and and and that assumption that set of assumptions is predicated on ideas like a question that a young lady asked me just a few weeks back at a conference that I was speaking at well and as I was talking about these things she said well aren't you grateful that that Europeans brought civilization to your people now there are some assumptions in that that we weren't civilized as one but the corollary assumption to that is that technology and industry equates to civilization and and of course we if we unpack that there's a whole bunch more to that but those are the kinds of assumptions that unless people deal with them and set them aside and and again focus on what it was here and that that we had a common commitment and agreement about you know we're in trouble so there's there's a need to continue this at every possible level because these things that we're talking about that need to be brought out that needed to have reconciliation brought to them happened at multiple levels in the church in the in the community at large by government by individuals and so forth it was the key to healing Terry LeBlanc says is understanding the places we all have come from and embracing the differences that make us each who we are to tell their stories so that I hope as a country we gain the strength to change is to not only affirm the identity of each person but also the group identity of the many nations our groups now make up Canada it is interesting that suffering is what moves us to hear one another not just the suffering of every gional people but of all humanity and when we enter into this suffering somehow Christ means us there and breezy evening we deny people suffering it's difficult for us to be agents oppressed and the only way to that place of healing all parties say is through discussions like this one for more information on this path to reconciliation you can go to our website at Crossroads CA in Toronto Ontario Magdalene Johns 100 Huntley Street

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