Our empathy needs to be tangible

February 13, 2013 | Viewpoints
George Epp |

The Idle No More movement may exhilarate some while perplexing others. What it hopes to gain for aboriginal Canadians is probably clear, at least in broad strokes; what it means for all of us is not so clear.

I tend to want political analysis, but it’s the hard edge in me that reveals itself in matters small and large from which I most need to seek relief, an antidote for that which makes me intolerant, suspicious, argumentative or passive and, sometimes, aggressive.

It’s this chronic disease that predicts that “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again,” as the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes laments. Must it always be thus?

In the case of first nations in Canada, what we see today is not substantially different from what was a century ago. Will the new attempt to reawaken a sense of justice in Canada take hold this time, or will what has been done simply be done again?

As Mennonites, we are uniquely placed to provide resources to aboriginal Canadians, joining together to forge a new reality that is not the colonial status-quo of the past. We’re generally well educated, are in synch with the Idle No More wish to achieve goals nonviolently, and have been schoolled by a legacy of generosity in the name of Christ. Also, we have mastered the art of succeeding in the Canadian economy. The hurdle we most often have to overcome is that hard edge that finds any number of excuses for remaining aloof from our aboriginal neighbours and their legitimate aspirations.

Where there is no relationship, no reconciliation is likely to occur. Here in Saskatchewan, some Mennonites have been working hard to find ways to deepen their understanding of what it’s like to walk in aboriginal shoes these days. It’s a first step. In practical terms, let me suggest that in the following year we individually do one or more of the following:

  • Participate in a pow-wow
  • Request a tour of a reserve at a band office
  • Join in a round dance
  • Walk with Idle No More protesters
  • Attend a service with aboriginal Christians

If none of these options are available to you, spend time with Roger Epp’s We Are All Treaty People or read some of Rudy Wiebe’s prolific writing on aboriginal reality. The list of Mennonites who care about aboriginal/settler/national relations is quite long by now, but the acts that tangibly demonstrate our Christ-driven empathy still need a lot of work.

George Epp is moderator of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.