Sitting in the tension of Truth and Reconciliation
By Brandon Kong, Campus Minister, Ottawa
I remember learning about residential schools for the first time in my high school social studies class and the gut feeling I had listening to the terrible stories of children being stolen from their families at the hands of police, per the policies of our government. I remember my sense of denial when I learned that residential schools were run by Christians – people who believed the same Jesus I do and who practiced the same faith I do. I sat in the tension of knowing that people who professed to follow the way of Jesus actively sought to destroy and dehumanize the image of God in over 150,000 Indigenous children.
I think even as a teenager in high school I felt the weight of the atrocities committed and knew that though I am not of European descent and have no ancestors on Turtle Island (what settlers call North America) I still benefit.
Privilege of Learning from Elders
When I went to university, I had the privilege and honour to hear from Indigenous elders, professors, and teachers in many of my classes. They shared their experiences of generational trauma (both direct and indirect) and their views on justice, reconciliation, teaching, learning, restoration, and healing. I listened and grieved alongside wails of lament and cries for justice in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and held hands with strangers as they bravely shared their stories and history.
In recent years, with other InterVarsity colleagues, I have had the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of Indigenous theologians and knowledge keeper at NAIITS. I attended the conference in 2017 as a student and again this past year as staff with InterVarsity, bringing many of my students along with me to learn from Indigenous peoples on how to follow the Good Path of Jesus.
This past year at NAIITS and in the weeks following, we grieved alongside our Indigenous family as thousands of bodies of Indigenous children were recovered in Kamloops, Fort Providence, Marieval, Battleford, Cranbrook, Penelakut Island, Muskowekwan First Nation and Brandon. Still there are so many other places with so many more small bodies buried in unmarked graves yet to be recovered. Lord have mercy.
Remaining in the Tension
Today, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I sit in these tensions still, but no longer denying what has happened and is still happening. Today, I will begin reading 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality. Today, I will attend events put on by Indigenous peoples in Ottawa at Parliament Hill and Confederation Park.
Today, I will remain in the tension and remember all these teachings that I have had in my life. I pray that we who profess to follow the way of Creator Sets Free (Jesus) will follow the right path, make reparations where we can in better and stronger partnership with Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. I hope we can help to create space for Truth to be told and Reconciliation to occur.
Praying to Relinquish Power
Creator God, teach us to surrender whatever power or benefit we think we have and teach us to no longer be complicit in these broken systems! We confess that we have been complicit and continue to be complicit – teach us to follow the right path again. Healer, will you do the healing work that only you can do among all peoples traumatized by heinous actions against Indigenous peoples throughout history.
“I am giving thanks to the Great Spirit! For even though you once followed your bad hearts and broken ways, you turned from that path, and now from the heart you follow the sacred ways that you have been taught. You have now been set free from your broken ways to walk a path of doing what is right.”
Romans 6:17-18 (First Nations Version)