The Internet has been abuzz lamenting some of the difficult events of 2016. But let’s take a moment to look in the rearview mirror and remember important strides forward that were made in 2016, before focusing on the hills ahead of us. Our Canada justice team staff were moved this look back. May it be encouraging to you too!
Some CRC staff working with congregations for justice in Canada shared their justice highlights of 2016:
For me, 2016 was hopeful, because in the face of various injustices and tragedies, people responded with action and compassion. Whether it was sending aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew, learning more about the war in Syria and advocating for refugees here in Canada and abroad, or seeing many allies and church leaders support and protest alongside the water protectors at Standing Rock, I’ve been so inspired by people putting their beliefs into action. There were also some awesome decisions made in 2016 that will move Canada towards justiace and equality in the future, such as greater protection for The Great Bear Rainforest in B.C., a new provincial strategy in Ontario to end human trafficking, and seeing the civil rights pioneer, Viola Desmond, honoured on the upcoming $10 bill!
This year, the CRC declared the Doctrine of Discovery a heresy. That’s good news! Rejecting and condemning the Doctrine of Discovery makes room for us to work to dismantle the Doctrine and to challenge the systemic injustices facing Indigenous populations. Calling the DOD a heresy is only a beginning—let’s use it as a launching pad to work together for equal and equitable social and economic relationships between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people. For far too long, Indigenous people have had no say in where they live, have had too many constraints on how to earn an income, and were told to practice spirituality in a certain way. We can work to change this history by learning about, respecting and incorporating Indigenous rights into our lives, especially by using the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration articulates the many rights that have been denied to Indigenous peoples, so that those rights will not be violated again. Thankfully, the CRC in Canada also committed to following the Declaration as a framework for reconciliation this year.
Our challenge is to live up to these aspirations in our daily lives.
These are both steps in the right direction. Our challenge is to live up to these aspirations in our daily lives by equipping ourselves with the fuller truth of history to make meaningful changes.
I’m deeply thankful for the committed, excellent work of the grassroots committee that supports the Centre for Public Dialogue this year. They are our companions on the justice journey and we couldn’t seek justice and speak hope without them. If you don’t know these people, get to know them! Working for the flourishing of all can be difficult work. This year, I’m thankful too for promising allies in partner organizations and broader civil society.
While politics can be profoundly polarized and polarizing, and can tempt us to despair, I see a deepening clarity of the Gospel call to Shalom developing for such a time as this. This is spiritual work, friends. And finally, we’re excited to welcome Cindy to the team as a Justice Mobilizer!
On June 11, a diverse team of facilitators—Hispanic, Sayisi Dene, Navajo, and others—led hundreds of Synod delegates in a mass Blanket Exercise. It was beautiful. For space to be made on the busy Synod schedule for hundreds of CRC leaders to learn a fuller version of the history of this continent was no small accomplishment. It was emotional for me to see the denomination that I love led in such a profound learning experience, especially knowing that these exercises had also been happening in local congregations across the continent all year long.
We also celebrated the announcement that after years of tireless advocacy by Indigenous women, Canadians will finally get a chance to pay the violence faced by Indigenous women the attention it deserves through the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Canadians like to look over the fence and bemoan the systemic racism of our American neighbours—but we don’t always acknowledge the log in our own eye. This inquiry is a chance for us to continue the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with some national soul-searching. You can pray along with the inquiry here.
What we’re looking forward to working on with congregations in 2017:
I’m looking forward to helping point congregations toward some of the amazing resources the CRC has to equip them to do justice in their own communities. I’m also really excited to learn more about what churches are already doing, as I know the Spirit is always working in creative ways to help spur on new ideas and initiatives, and I believe I can learn a lot from the work that churches are already involved in.
I’m also really excited to learn more about what churches are already doing, as I know the Spirit is always working in creative ways to help spur on new ideas and initiatives.
We made some big commitments this year by declaring the DOD a heresy and committing to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I’m looking forward to helping congregations to live up to these goals through tools like the Blanket Exercise.
I’m looking forward to the development of a new resource to equip and support congregations in the spiritual work of advocacy.
I'm excited about powerful reflections of our Do Justice columnists and how they bring us words from the Spirit from the grassroots. I also can’t wait to equip more CRC members, especially Canadians, to speak up on issues of injustice through the Centre for Public Dialogue’s new Action Centre. Check it out!