Updated: Jul 27, 2021
In response to 1505 (and counting), unmarked graves of what is believed to be Indigenous children found on the grounds of Indian Residential Schools across Canada, some have taken to burning churches, while others are leaving messages painted in red on the front doors.
Starting on 12 June 2021, St. John's Anglican Church on Six Nations Reserve in Ontario was lit on fire. Since then, six other churches have caught fire in BC and another in Morinville, Alberta. Further to burning down churches, some have taken to leaving grim messages on church exteriors. Still others are desecrating statues of imperial figures, racist political leaders, and the like. This seems to be turning into an all out civil war. While I do not condone the destruction of any property that is not specifically owned by the person destroying it, I understand the intention behind these acts of vandalism.
Settler community members say these acts are senseless, but they are not without intention. Indigenous People of this land are crying for our lost children. In the minds of many Indigenous People, removing the Catholic Churches from Native Land will achieve two outcomes. First, it will help protect our children from the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse our people suffered at the hands of the church. Ultimately, these acts protect our children from being murdered. Second, they serve to send a message to Pope Francis in the only language he seems to understand, which is the loss of assets.
Our people both want and deserve a Papal apology much like the one issued to survivors of the Industrial Residential School Survivors in Ireland. We want to be seen as people. For more than a century the cries of our people have been ignored. Now, the evidence is undeniable, they killed our children and now we will not be silenced.
As for losing a piece of history, this may be a part of history that Canada needs to move forward from. While it is important to remember the sins of the past, to leave these churches standing on Native Land is to rub salt in the freshly re-opened wounds of Indigenous People. The red paint that is splashed on the outer walls of churches is a visual reminder of the genocide that has been enacted on the most vulnerable members of our society, our children.
Although the Pope has previously refused calls for a Papal apology to Indian Residential School Survivors on Canadian soil, on June 30, 2021 the news reported that later this year, Pope Francis will come to Canada to discuss the possibility of making an apology. These previous refusals set the Catholic Church apart from other denominations, and infects already wounded hearts with the grim reminder that the church simply does not care about the Indigenous People of this land.
In Canada, Indian Residential Schools were run by many denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Church, and other non-denominational or government institutions) and all forms of abuse were suffered at all. There are good and bad people in all denominations just as there are good and bad people in all ethnicities. I know some very good Christian people, including Catholics, that have apologized to me personally many times. However, I also know of stiff-necked, rigid Christians from all denominations that simply wish they had done a better job at annihilating FNMI People.
To this Indigenous Christian, the Pope's refusal shows that we are all sinners that need prayer, forgiveness and Jesus. I urge the Indigenous People of this land to keep protests peaceful and destruction free. Yes, we need to bring attention to the issues of genocide and longstanding oppression that our people face day to day, but burning and defacing churches is not the answer. We can tell the church to leave our land sure, but what about providing freedom of religion to our people that have adopted the beliefs of the Roman Catholic and other Christian traditions? We cannot force our personal views on others, lest we become filled the hatred of our colonizers. We must respond without compromising our ethics.
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