Many across this land are wondering how to respond to protesters blocking rail lines, ports and government offices in solidarity with Indigenous groups who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern British Columbia.
So far, I have not heard any answers that suggest starting with prayer.
Pausing to pray would cause us to, well for starters, pause.
A pause might allow us to reflect on Creator God’s love for each person and for creation, regardless of where we stand on political issues. A silent prayer might allow to us recall God’s desire for us to be people of peace, justice and friendship amid conflict and tension. A moment of reflection is also a space to think on our own complex histories, and the remarkable wealth and hospitality we enjoy from lands stewarded by Indigenous peoples.
For me, pausing for prayer often allows important memories to return. Like memories of the time – 25 years ago – when I walked with my Indigenous friends and neighbours in a place called Ipperwash. I recall police officers being directed to use force to end protests over land. The police actions not only failed to end the protests, but brought an end to the life of an Indigenous man named Dudley George. Dudley George, who died of a police gunshot wound, was a friend of mine and of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
I learned then – and recall today – that violent solutions to complex issues are rarely effective. I am grateful there seems to be a greater level of patience and restraint today than two decades ago. But prayer and a call for non-violence is still necessary.
MCC has a long history of relationships with Indigenous peoples in Canada. We also have a long commitment to non-violence grounded in our understanding of what it means to be followers of Christ.
We invite you to join us in prayer for the safety of all persons involved and for leaders to use their wisdom and discernment in this process. Let us pray for a peaceful end to protests and blockades; disputes ended by force are not really ended. Let us remember our relationships with Indigenous friends and neighbours as we, together, continue the hard work of reconciliation.
Let us today pause, reflect, pray and call for a peaceful response to a generations-old conflict.
Rick Cober Bauman is the executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Canada. This reflection originally appeared at mccottawaoffice.wordpress.com.
Hundreds of people participated in a mass blanket exercise on the steps of Parliament Hill, lead by members of Kairos. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated, including those from Mennonite churches and MCCers from across the system. (MCC photo by Alison Ralph)