When the invitation came via Facebook to attend “Honour the Apology,” a national day of prayer in response to news of nutritional experiments on aboriginal children through the Canadian residential school system — I responded with “Maybe.” I had time to go, but I’d “heard about” more than taken the time to “know about” this news. I have to admit I’m the type of person who likes to know what she’s getting into before she participates in causes! I remember feeling a similar large ignorance and uncertainty when I got involved in an evening of prayer and lament for sexually abused women in the Mennonite colonies of Bolivia several years ago.
The pastor of our church, Dan Nighswander, put out a note saying he was going and wondered if anyone would join him, and that decided me. It wasn’t just that I’d have a ride to the Oodena Circle at the Forks, but second, better thoughts entered and persuaded me. For one, I can — and do — pray, and this was a call to prayer. (Some of the aboriginal initiators of the event were fasting the day as well.) For another, participating is itself a form of knowing. I may feel myself an outsider, but I come inside by the Joining that is listening. And I have no trouble agreeing with the call to the Canadian government to honour its 2008 apology to survivors of residential schools by releasing all its relevant documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Surely nothing is gained by withholding them; surely truth and finally healing will be facilitated by releasing them.
I’m glad I went. It seemed a gift that it rained while an aboriginal elder gave the opening invocation to the Creator in which he spoke of the rain which cleanses the Earth. When he finished, the rain stopped. His prayers were followed by prayers and greetings by representatives of Mennonites, Japanese-Canadians, United Church, Roman Catholic, a Pentecostal denomination, and Muslims. What remains with me are the sounds I heard of anguish and strength, and the insistence that the path to healing is a spiritual path — but that we must walk that path together.