Our 2011 ELCIC National Convention, after exploring the meaning of treaties as sacred covenants, passed a resolution that commits our church to encouraging right relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada.
At this year’s Synod Assembly we will consider approving a Biennium Reconciliation Initiative wherein our synod will commit to advancing this cause, recognizing that the sincerity of our efforts to find truth and reconciliation will be demonstrated in our actions and attitudes.
Our proposed Eastern Synod Biennium Reconciliation Initiative reads as follows:
• We call on our Synod Ministry Areas and their congregations, assemblies and members to seek out opportunities to deepen our understanding of indigenous rights, to participate in the ongoing work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation process, and to renew relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in our varied contexts.
• We acknowledge the injustices of the residential school system on Aboriginal peoples and the past harms and the continuing destructive legacy. With faith and hope in Christ, we will seek to be present for and walk with Indigenous people who are on their healing journeys from the harm done to them at residential schools.
• Our Lutheran tradition teaches that reconciliation is a gracious and precious gift from God. We earnestly pray that the Creator will stir our hearts and open our eyes, ears and souls so that we may have the courage to speak truth, the patience to listen, the wisdom to confess and the humility to show respect so that true reconciliation can happen. It is the Creator who calls us to hope for a better future and for a healing journey that will bring us to true community.
• We encourage the Synod Ministry Areas, their congregations, assemblies and members to attend local commemorative events hosted by Aboriginal organizations to honour those who attended residential schools.
• That Areas, their congregations, assemblies and other groups initiate one or more activities, events or gestures in the next 24 months that would be consistent with our desire to walk with Aboriginal peoples to find healing and wholeness together as God’s people, and to share information about these initiatives with the Director of Public Policy and Service Ministries.
• That Areas and their congregations use resources (such as those posted on our Eastern Synod Website – www.easternsynod.org/content/biennium-reconciliation-initiative (Biennium Reconciliation Initiative)
Our indigenous friends welcome this partnership. Indeed, many would tell us that among faith communities, Lutherans are in a unique position because we were not directly involved in the terrible legacy of the residential school system. But this does not mean that as Canadians and Christians, we don’t bear responsibility for helping to correct past wrongs and establish right and just relations.
While Canada is regularly rated among the top five or ten countries in the world in which to live, indigenous communities, using the same scale, would rate in the high sixties or low seventies. Indigenous peoples are among the poorest members of our society. Their life expectancy is among the lowest. Suicide rates among indigenous youth are among the highest in the world. Over 100 communities don’t have access to clean water or indoor plumbing. As Canadians we must help to address these shameful realities.
And as Christians, we need to acknowledge the sad truth that our faith traditions were misused in ways that caused great harm to our indigenous neighbours. Christians have a particular obligation to make things right. I’m grateful that our church is trying to do what it can to be a part of the solution. I’m proud of those groups and individuals within our synod who have taken steps to help us engage these important matters. But I’m especially grateful that God our Creator has given us this call and opportunity to seek and experience a fuller measure of right relationship with our aboriginal siblings. God is indeed gracious and good!