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Who is my Neighbour?

My heart and mind are torn this week! I am an avid reader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reports that stream like a river over the media. I listen with deep interest to the words of Justice Sinclair. I saw him personally listen to the stories in Saskatoon in 2002 where I wandered from room to room watching my Aboriginal neighbors being willing to be vulnerable, pouring out their lives for others to hear. Many of us do not know that kind of courage! We fear judgment, misunderstanding, and alienation when truths of the past are filtered through the lives of others.

A couple of decades ago, not so long ago really, I wondered why there were so many Aboriginal children in the care of the local child welfare system. At that time, there did not seem to be a known, "make-sense" answer. Then I began to learn that 7 generations of folks had to journey through residential schools! How does my Aboriginal neighbour experience the unwillingness and the slowness of so many of us to listen, believe, and act on the many wrongs that so need to be set right?

Then there is my refugee neighbour...friendships inside my home! We share each other's joys, challenges, and sorrows. How could I not be deeply dismayed on a Sunday afternoon when my friend Nahla called from a medical clinic--they wanted cash before they would give attention to her ailing son. Or my friend Amy on the other side of town, who walked to a clinic, concerned with the rising temperature of her daughter, and was turned away because cash was to be the first exchange between health personnel and client. Amy did not have the money. Healthcare for refugee claimants was slashed in 2012, and although the Federal Court recently called these cuts to be "cruel and unusual" and ordered the government to reverse them, the government has only half-complied and many refugee claimants remain without essential health coverage. If claimants come from certain countries, they cannot even access healthcare if they are pregnant or experiencing a heart attack! Today we have a chance to respond in our cities through the National Day of Action (for refugee healthcare). There are rallies taking place across the country. Stand and walk with others in your community to preach with your feet that indeed all in our midst must have access and care for their health concerns! Seeing our health care workers lead this response in the courts and on the streets is fantastic and encouraging.

World Refugee Day on June 20 turns our attention as well to refugees who desperately need our attention. Would you as a church community consider an opportunity to sponsor a family? I know that you will be stretched and you wonder if it will allow other bills to be paid and other responsibilities to be met but by God's grace, you will find a way! Perhaps there are ways to come alongside refugees trying to navigate their way into Canadian community with its norms and its demands. My friend from the Gambia asked the other day, "Is it really possible to get a job in Canada?" Are you an employer or are you willing to influence your network to consider a newcomer as the most recent person to join your workforce?

Our efforts to be engaged for justice may look different for each one of us. It may be a rally today with health care providers, a letter to your MP about the healthcare cuts, participating in the Journey with Me workshop, sharing the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with others for action and change (or speaking up to urge the government to implement the TRC's recommendations), involvement with a refugee settlement centre, praying with passion for just government leaders here and around the world, and so much more. You can explore this blog for many more great ideas.

How will "doing justice" look for you? Micah 6: 8 gives us so much practical and spiritual help. As we "love mercy" by reaching out in a compassionate act, God often uses those opportunities to say to our hearts, "Something is wrong here...something needs to be made right! Each person is made in my image and ought to have opportunities to be the person that I created and gifted them to be." Then, we find the rich encouragement of "walking humbly with our God". I was raised in an environment in which I was warned regularly that pride was not acceptable. This is what I then understood from Micah 6:8. Do not be proud! I am grateful now to know that as we pursue mercy and justice, that we may do these activities in the complete and unwavering assurance that God is available and present. He meets us at every high and low on the justice journey and will never abandon or forsake us in our efforts, though tainted, to love and serve our many, diverse neighbors in His name.

[Image: Flickr user Dr. Farouk]

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