Readers write: April 27, 2020 issue

April 22, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 24 Issue 9
Various Contributors |
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Let Wet’suwet’en exercise their right to self-determination
Who do you support when a community is divided?” Feb. 17, page 20.

I appreciate Canadian Mennonite opening up the dialogue on the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal Gas issue from a variety of perspectives. This settler dialogue is long overdue, as Indigenous revitalization of identity, culture and the recognition of their inherent rights become stronger.

However, the historical evolution of their struggle for self-determination and self-sufficiency is often overlooked. This struggle reminds me of the parable of the widow and the unjust ruler in Luke 18: 1-8. The widow’s resolute demand for justice is at first dismissed by the self-interested judge. When she refuses to let her case drop, the judge eventually gives her the justice she is entitled to.

Similarly, Indigenous persistence in their struggle for justice is finally acknowledged legally and in social policy. Indigenous identity and inherent rights, long shunted onto a neglected railway siding, have finally left the station and are making their way to your town and mine, inviting us to get on board the decolonizing and reconciliation train. This remains a work in progress that has many moving parts.

I am not surprised at the tension among the Wet’suwet’en over the proposed agreement with the B.C. and Canadian governments. It is incumbent on settler society, and especially Christian churches, to suspend judgment as the Wet’suwet’en exercise their right to self-determination affecting their traditional territory and its resources.

The critical questions for me are:

  • Will the church fully embrace reconciliation with God, all our neighbours and the Earth, as the central point of the good news of the gospel?
  • Will the church harness its considerable privilege to decolonize itself by supporting the efforts of Indigenous people to achieve a measure of social, political and economic justice in Canadian society?

—Johann Funk, Surrey, B.C.


God is also exclusive
God is inclusive, not exclusive!” March 2, page 9.

I respect Donna Entz for pointing out that God’s love reaches every person, including me. However, in his Word, God also tells us that he is holy. Jesus also tells us that he is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” And then Jesus promises his followers that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

These characteristics of our Triune God reveal to us that God is also exclusive. I find it amazing how God applies his exclusivity to make us holy, to find the way, to experience the truth, to inherit life and to be comforted in our state of exclusion to be included in his kingdom.

It looks to me that God is exclusively inclusive, with his gracious, inclusive agape love.
—Erwin Strempler, Calgary


Will Braun ‘nails it’ with his Easter feature
Re:Out of holy weakness, mysterious power arises,” March 16, page 4.

I appreciate Will Braun’s creative way of interviewing pastors regarding the cross and resurrection as posed to 12-year-olds. Brilliant. Then, with all due respect to the interviewees, Braun the journalist himself nails it better than I have heard from any preacher in the near or distant past.

In these recent years of denominational reorganization and program cuts, he ventures straight into some urgent theology that is mostly being avoided these days! If pastors have problems with Jesus dying for our sins, and don’t want to use traditional language, whatever is wrong with just stating it the way it’s described in the Bible: “[Jesus] died not with a fist in the air, but with arms spread helpless. Out of holy weakness, mysterious power arises.”

After hearing that I am so ready for resurrection! I know for a fact that no 12-year-old or senior citizen, whether devout Christian or agnostic, will take offence.

And I would recommend this writer as guest speaker for “deeper life” services in one of our churches somewhere.
—Jacob Froese, Calgary


Messages to repent needed at this time
Re:Love in the time of COVID-19” feature, March 30, page 4.

My heart is warmed that Bibles are selling well right now at Walmart in the United States, where COVID-19 is rampant. No doubt the increased sales of Bibles is a response from people who are gripped with fear and uncertainty over the coronavirus. It is my prayer that they will find comfort, hope and light in the pages of God’s Word.

I’ve been researching what is being taught from “virtual pulpits” these days in the hope of finding many pastors demonstrating love to their people by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ with a strong message of repentance. Instead, I’ve found some pastors acknowledging their hearers’ anxiety with empathy, but without emphasizing trust in Jesus Christ through these uncertain times. Perhaps some uncertainties and fears were eased superficially for the moment, but I believe that more than that is needed—especially right now. 

On the upside, an unknown man said this about what we are doing right now: “God has eternity in mind. . . . God knocks hard on the doors of hard hearts. That’s one of the things God is doing here. This is not judgment on any particular people or country. It’s a wakeup call to all, whether you’ve known the gospel and turned aside, or never really heard. This is God knocking.” 

I believe this man was speaking out of concern and love for others and I appreciate his candour. The vitally important message of repentance needs to be heard often.
—Elaine Fehr (online comment)


Coronavirus fear and suffering
What if we saw our current pandemic situation from a different perspective? A blessing perhaps? That doesn’t make much sense at such a time.

A short while ago I had a dream. I was at a lecture and the speaker asked: “Enos, what does ‘con-blessing’ mean?” It was dark, and I saw and heard nothing else. What does “con-blessing” mean? The next day I began to search, and this is what I found. “Con,” as in “pro and con,” means “a disadvantage of, or argument against something.

Could our current situation of isolation and fear be a “con-blessing” to help us become more understanding and caring of what many have and are experiencing:

  • Refugees in camps or fleeing danger and leaving friends and relatives behind? 
  • Homeless people who have no home to isolate in?
  • For those with little hope of there ever being any change?

Perhaps in every contrary thing in our lives there lurks a hidden blessing.
—Enos Kipfer, London, Ont.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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Reply to Johann Funk, Surrey, B.C. . . . Let Wet’suwet’en exercise their right to self-determination.

In reference to “decolonize”, could I suggest a more meaningful 21st century discourse as there has been no colonies globally for 75+ years. To suggest the church should “decolonize” has no meaning for me and strikes me as irrelevant.

I find the use of the term "settler” a pejorative and somewhat absurd term being as this is the 21st century and there have been no "settlers" for generations. Using the term "settler" as a pejorative epithet is an insult to our great grandfathers and great grandmothers who through industry and innovation build our advance civil 21st century society with it’s advanced parliamentary governance plus social system and compassionate Medicare. To maintain and even improve this advanced 21st century civil society can’t be done by regressively moving to any previous centuries industry or social norms and that includes embracing tribalism.

Thank you for entering the discussion. My point was that the Wet'suwet'en have an inherent right to self-determination.

Settler colonialism is alive and well in several forms. For example Israel is a settler colonial state given its dispossession of Palestinians. Indigenous people around the world are internally colonized by a dominant group that is foreign to the region i.e. the Spanish as the dominant class in Central and South America and the English and French in Canada.

One paragraph was edited out that outlined the more than a century struggle of the Wet’suwet’en for title to the traditional territory. The present situation is not a kind of 'blackmail' as some suggest but part of a struggle that has its roots in first contact.

"Indigenous resistance to colonial domination in Central British Columbia dates back to the governments pre-emptive assumption of title when it joined Confederation in 1871. The Wet’suwet’en and Gitksan made numerous attempts to assert their land rights as settlers, trappers, farmers, loggers, and miners encroached on their traditional territory. The Wet’suwet’en and Gitksan resisted the government efforts to force them onto reserves. In 1927 the federal government amended the Indian Act making it illegal to organize around the land question or to advance any land claim. This provision remained in place till 1951. After decades of neglect, Indigenous ‘prior rights’ are finally being addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada based on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and numerous decisions including Delgamuukw in 1997 that recognized the Hereditary Chief’s title to traditional territory. In addition, social policy has increasingly affirmed Indigenous rights by adopting the ‘Calls for Action’ in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation and the pending incorporation of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights into Canadian Law. "

No one disputes that society has progressed in large measure by the efforts and vision of immigrants and refugees that flooded the landscape. What is in dispute is who befitted from policies such as reservations, residential schools and the Indian Act. The evidence is clear: Indigenous people were systematically prevented from benefiting from the resources within their traditional territories reducing them to an underclass in Canadian society.

The assumption that the Wet'suwet'en agenda is to return to tribalism is at best ethnocentric. There struggle is about having their inherent rights recognized and respected within Canadian society, "the train has left the station."

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