MC Canada leaders promote National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2022 | Web First
Canadian Mennonite
(Image courtesy of Government of Canada)

Today marks Canada’s second-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday that recognizes the impact of residential schools on the country’s Indigenous people.

Mennonite Church Canada’s executive ministers have made a statement encouraging people to make Sept. 30 a day for listening, learning and seeking reconciliation.

Released yesterday afternoon, the statement was signed by Doug Klassen (MC Canada), Tim Wiebe-Neufeld (MC Alberta), Garry Janzen (MC B.C.), Leah Reesor-Keller (MC Eastern Canada), Michael Pahl (MC Manitoba) and Josh Wallace (MC Saskatchewan).

It reads as follows:

“As we honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation across Canada, we encourage our congregations and church members to make this a day for listening to Indigenous voices, learning from our Indigenous neighbours and siblings, and seeking to do our part as Mennonites to move further along the path of truth toward reconciliation.

“We recognize the harms churches have committed in the name of Jesus to Indigenous people and communities, and we acknowledge our role as Mennonites in some of these harms. We also recognize that harms continue to be committed against Indigenous people and their lands by powerful forces in our society. May we stand with them in love and solidarity until true reconciliation is fully achieved.”

The statement ends with a prayer that the Truth and Reconciliation Working Group of MC Eastern Canada is offering for use by congregations:

Prayer for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Holy God of Truth and Justice,
God our Creator, Redeemer and Source of all Love,
God incarnate in Jesus, the Great Reconciler, 

God present with us as your Holy Spirit,
God in whose Image all our brothers and sisters
are made. All of them…
those in our family and those of other
cultures, nations, and faiths.

When our relationship with You is broken by sin
your Son Jesus provides The Way back to a right relationship with you.
You reconciled us to yourself through Jesus Christ
and entrusted the work of reconciliation to us.                                          (2 Corinthians 5:18)

You have given reconciliation as the model for the healing of relationships.
Help us to be seeds of reconciliation in the broken relationship
between Indigenous peoples and the country of Canada.
Help the church to truly reflect in concrete ways your Great Love
which includes Indigenous peoples in their beauty, strength and resilience.

Help us to listen with “ears to hear” the truth of the full impact                (Mark 4:23; Luke 8:8)
of Canada’s residential schools on our Indigenous neighbours.
For it is when truth is acknowledged the path of reconciliation can begin.
Help us always to be open to learning what we do not yet know.

We cannot truly comprehend the pain of Indigenous people and communities
resulting from generations of forced attendance at residential and day schools,
resulting from generations of forced separation of children from their parents,
resulting from abuse suffered by children at the hands of their care givers,
resulting from grief when children did not return home but remained in unmarked graves.

We cannot truly comprehend the grief,
but we commemorate their grief with our respectful silence and prayer.

Our prayer consists of longings we cannot put into words,                       (Romans 8:26)
longing for healing, longing for respect, longing for resurgence.
May your Holy Spirit work through the longings of all people
to bring us to the path of reconciliation opened for us by Jesus.


—Corrected Sept. 28, 2022. This article originally omitted Michael Pahl as a signer of the statement.

(Image courtesy of Government of Canada)

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It is a good thing for MC Canada to issue a statement promoting National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I find the statement issued, too long on prayer and too short on action. The statement recommends the day should be honoured by listening to and learning from First Nations peoples, so that we might seek to "do our part as Mennonites to move further along the path of truth and reconciliation." The statement refers primarily to the harms of Christianity in the form of residential schools. That is of course what the TRC was all about, however the statement ignores the "elephant in the room" for Mennonites, which was the occupation and dispossession of First Nations peoples from their lands, simultaneously to when the residential schools were operating.

The MC Canada statement is long on prayer, beseeching God to give us the courage to reconcile with our First Nations peoples. Many First Nations writers and speakers I have read and listened to, submit that reconciliation can only come about if the truth that the land was stolen/taken is addressed. Land Back is at the root of reconciliation, that is an even greater injustice than residential schools in my opinion.

It is ironic that we hear from MC Canada that we should reconcile with First Nations peoples about our residential school complicity, listen, learn, and dialogue, maybe even become friends, ask for forgiveness for past wrongs, and that we pray mightily to God that we have the strength and wisdom to do so, and yet ... we hold fast to the land. Leadership from MC Canada does not encourage Mennonites to "return the land," or make reparation. On that part of reconciliation the church has been strangely silent. Wonder what Yahweh is thinking about it all?

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