Walking together at a distance

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Following current physical-distance guidelines, the fifth annual Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation was held in various parts of British Columbia over the final weekend of May.

Although we walked apart, we did so in solidarity with our First Nations brothers and sisters whose families have been affected by the residential school system for many generations.

In previous years, we were honored to spend time and share meals with our First Nations neighbours, and we really missed that connection this year. Hopefully, that will happen again as we move forward in the coming years.

Walking on a more individual basis this year gave us more time to think and really focus on why we were walking, although we missed the camaraderie of others. It is always painful to reflect on the cultural genocide that has taken place over generations against our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

As we walked, we were reminded of the abuse and loss of identity that occurred at residential schools, this being especially sobering when we recall that this happened in the name of the church. As we passed by local First Nation communities, we recognized again how much work we still need to do to create levels of trust, develop honest relationships, and maybe one day find a way to true reconciliation. Even though there has been more of an openness to truth telling, we now need to act on what we have heard to show that we are actually listening.

By participating in the walk, we hope to raise awareness to the gross injustices that continue to be inflicted on our Indigenous neighbours. It allows us to show our respect, and reminds us, and others, of the journey we should all be on to listen, hear the truth, educate ourselves and work towards reconciliation.  

The Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation is held in partnership with the Christian Reformed Church, Diocese of New Westminster; Langley Mennonite Fellowship Church; Mennonite Church British Columbia; Mennonite Central Committee B.C.; the United churches of Langley; and Willoughby Christian Reformed Church. 

Marlene Friesen is a member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C. This was the third year she participated in the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation.

Related stories:
‘We are in this together’
Walking and talking along the trail

Al Friesen, left, Marlene Friesen, Charlotte Siemens and Jon Nofziger, who all attend Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C., take part in the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation. (Photo by Al Friesen)

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