Like most of us these days I receive a lot of news bulletins on my phone. A quick swipe to the left and I have access to all the latest happenings in our country and beyond. There are some days when I don’t bother, others when I wish I hadn’t. There are days when the news gives me information I would rather not know.
Yesterday was one of those days. The first item in the news feed read: More than 200 Bodies Found at Residential School in BC. I stared at the words, shock rendering me immobile for a moment. Then I clicked on the title and read the article and tears began to flow. Over 200 children buried in unmarked graves, their parents never notified. How could such a thing be true? That even one child would die and be discarded in such a manner should be unthinkable to us all. But 200? The word genocide cannot be dismissed.
Perhaps this news hit me hard because my grand-daughter’s eyes have a lovely slant to them. And this crime was committed at a Catholic institution. I was raised Catholic and what I read in that article went against everything I thought that institution stood for. I was raised to believe the sanctity of life was paramount, to the church and to God. How could those who were raised with that belief commit such a heinous crime?
My best friend in my high school years was an Ojibway girl who lived on a nearby reserve. She introduced me to some of her friends who were from remote communities in northern Ontario. Places like Moononee, Fort George and Attiwapiskat. Those kids were part of what is now known as the ‘Sixties Scoop.’ Hundreds of children across the country were taken from their homes and put into residential schools or foster homes without the consent of their parents. I often wondered at the time, in my innocence, why many of those kids seemed unhappy, why many of them were constantly in trouble, why many of them tried to run away from the places where they lived. Those children are now my age, in their 70’s and 80’s but the pain of the trauma they experienced still lives with them. Until recently, they were given no counselling to help them process it, let alone an acknowledgement that it had even occurred.
When I talked with my daughter about this news yesterday, her comment was insightful. “Why weren’t we taught about this in school?” she asked. “We learned about the Nazis and the holocaust. Why didn’t we learn about what had happened in our own country?”
Why indeed. I would like to believe, in my innocence, that it is because of the shame and the guilt. But sadly I suspect it is because of something more insidious, something more evil – racial prejudice.
Romans 12:15 tells us to “weep with those who weep.” Perhaps we should do more. Perhaps we should stand with those who are weeping at the mass burial sites. Perhaps we should voice our indignation and our horror. Perhaps we should demand that this history be taught in our schools. Perhaps we should demand that memorials be erected so that, like the cry to remember those who died in the world wars, a cry of remembrance might be raised each year for those innocents who died for no reason. Lest we forget.
James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. Yes, perhaps we should do more.