June 21 is National Aboriginal Day: Truth First, then Reconciliation
Canada recognizes National Aboriginal Day at the Summer Solstice—when the sun is at its most northerly position (and hence the longest day of our year, June 21). In light of this—as we approach Canada’s 150th anniversary—we are also getting light shone on our part in Truth and Reconciliation.
John Ralston Saul notes:
“… there have been thousands of speeches, addresses and court cases over the last 150 years in which indigenous leaders have laid out the situation [for reconciliation]…
Reconciliation… is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. This requires an “awareness of the past, acknowledgment of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour.”
Truth First … Then Reconciliation
The awareness of the past First Nations genocide has been difficult for Canadians to acknowledge. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission exposed layers of neglect and collusion: a nation, a government, and a Church culture all in on it. Those who bore Christ’s name, and did this in Christ’s name, now leave to this generation of Christ-followers the job of doing and undoing.
The temptation for the modern-day Canadian Christian is to say: “it wasn’t me,” “it wasn’t my church,” “it wasn’t my generation that did that.”
However, whenever we avoid taking responsibility, we also avoid reconciliation—and we are in the best possible position to reconcile.
Ministry of Reconciliation
We are reminded that we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:17-21), since it is through Christ that we’ve been reconciled to God in the first place. But in a humbling twist of history, it is we who must be forgiven by the people who were harmed in Jesus’ name.
“The scandal of forgiveness,” Philip Yancy writes, “confronts anyone who agrees to a moral cease-fire just because someone says, ‘I’m sorry.’ When I feel wronged, I can contrive a hundred reasons against forgiveness.”
I am asking our First Nations people not to contrive a hundred reasons against forgiveness.
I am asking Christ-followers of this generation not to contrive a hundred reasons to ignore reconciliation.
I suspect this will be a long journey and a humbling journey—but it’s the right journey for such a time as this.