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Monday, 6 February 2017

A Week of Tragedy and Solidarity

I’ve been away for the past couple of weeks attending a conference in Victoria and visiting family.  I’ve come back to an abundance of snow and the ubiquitous backlog of work that needs attending.

While I was away, the shootings in Quebec City took place--a heinous act of fear and hate against people of faith.  The Moderator of our United Church, Jordan Cantwell, wrote a letter of solidarity to our Muslim neighbours: “We share your grief, as we share your determination to stop the forces of hate that seek to divide and destroy us,” she wrote.

While the shootings were a terrible act, the actions of Canadians coming together in many cities, towns and rural areas was a tremendous act of hope, love and solidarity—a vigil was held here in Nelson on Sunday, February 5th.  A common message from these gatherings was that we will not be cowed by fear and hate; we will resist prejudice with love (as our Moderator said) and together we will be a light of hope to the world (as PM Trudeau implied).

While the tragedy in Quebec City occurred after the conference I attended in Victoria, a number of the presentations at the conference spoke to our need to actively resist fear and hate with concrete acts of love and solidarity.

We were reminded by MLA Melanie Mark, the 1st aboriginal woman to serve in the BC Legislative Assembly, that acts of love and justice have to be concrete in terms of actions and government policies; she is the member for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.  She reminded us of the resilience of 1st Nations people in Canada and the fact that far too many 1st Nations children live in poverty and face many challenges from Residential Schools that cross generations.  Melanie’s was a message of hope and empowerment: when we seek to make changes through shared values and from a place of openness, vulnerability and shared power, we will find a common path on which to walk together.

The other presentation at the Victoria conference that spoke to meeting fear and hate with concrete acts of love was given by Martha Juillerat.  (Jordan Cantwell was due to speak, but she was unable to attend conference at the last minute.)  Martha spoke about her participation in the Women’s March on Washington 2017 and included many powerful pictures from that march.  She challenged us to think about racism and to question white privilege.  In the conversations she had with many women from different traditions, the common theme was that justice and love must be tangible and must be done together.  People must come together wherever and whenever injustice occurs; we were reminded that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Through all of this, I am reminded of something else Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  That dream is still to be lived out in Canada as well as the USA and the rest of the world.  Concrete acts of love and solidarity along with the intention of peace with justice will go a long way to helping make this dream reality!

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