A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.
It is with sorrow and shame that we join with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and First Nation communities across Canada in mourning the discovery of the bodies of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Sorrow for the death of these children, and the communities from which they were forcibly taken and never returned. Shame for the fact that they died at the hands of our fellow followers of Christ. In humility, we pray for the survivors and communities who continue to bear the burden of the residential school system, and we repent for the role of our churches.
The truth is difficult to hear, and even more difficult to tell. These children, and the many others who wait to be found, are a testimony of the Canadian policy of cultural genocide. This is not history – it is an ongoing lived experience. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has provided us with the testimony of survivors, although, as this tragedy shows, there are countless stories still untold. It has also provided a pathway towards reconciliation. As Christians, reconciliation is at the heart of our story. But we know that truth comes first. And reconciliation requires repentance, restitution and change.
I don’t have an easy answer or quick resolution to offer. What I want to do now is listen – to the Indigenous students at ACTS Seminaries and the First Nations communities with whom we live. Over the last month, ACTS has been preparing to engage in a formal listening process with First Nations churches and communities, with the goal of de-colonizing our curriculum and pedagogy. This discovery has intensified the importance and necessity of doing so. But I would also be grateful for the opportunity to personally listen to Indigenous students and alumni, as you feel ready to do so. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to learn from you and begin to walk the path of reconciliation together.