September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. Established in 2021, it is meant to create space for Canadians to collectively reckon with the traumatic legacy of residential schools on our Indigenous kin, and move us towards co-creating a future of healing, flourishing and shalom.
As settler Christians, we especially grieve that the Church has been part of perpetuating colonial violence. We acknowledge that we have benefitted from the oppression of Indigenous people on this land. What might be some ways we can respond in action to Creator’s call to seek the shalom of our cities, communities and land alongside our Indigenous neighbours - on September 30 and beyond?
We are sharing 6 ideas to get you started - which one resonates with you today?
1. Show your solidarity at a local or virtual event
Many urban communities across Canada will have events you can attend to bear witness to the stories of pain and courage of survivors of residential schools as well as invitations towards allyship from Indigenous leaders.
Can’t attend something in person? The National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation is offering a series of free virtual ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions throughout Truth and Reconciliation Week 2023 to facilitate learning for Canadians.
2. Give one day of your pay to support Indigenous-led movements
As settlers, we can practically support the good work many Indigenous groups are already doing towards the healing and flourishing of their communities.
Did you know that less than 1% of charitable giving in Canada goes to Indigenous organizations? Let’s change that and continue to actively redistribute our wealth towards the future of truth and reconciliation with our Indigenous neighbours!
Whether or not you are getting a day off on September 30, consider giving one day’s pay - or however much generosity means for you - to an organization working on the land you have settled on.
3. Bear Witness Alongside Survivors with the Witness Blanket Project
Inspired by a woven blanket, the Witness Blanket is a large-scale, interactive online art piece containing hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures from across Canada. They are accompanied by the voices of Survivors who talk about the experience of being forced into residential schools. Consider bearing witness to these stories, and be part of carrying their truth forward into a future that takes responsibility for the injustices of the past.
4. Watch “We Were Children”
Stories allow us to move from an intellectual posture to one of empathy, understanding and solidarity.
In “We Were Children”, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two Indigenous children - Lyna and Glen - who were forced to endure trauma and abuse enacted by church-run boarding schools.
Warning: This film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older.
5. Learn with your kids
Transformation at personal, communal and systemic levels begins when we allow our internal narratives around Indigenous lives to be shaped towards the truth: that Indigenous people are created in the image of God, valuable and worthy of dignity.
Stories are a great way for us to begin that journey, especially in supporting a decolonized imagination in our kids and youth! Start with CBC’s list of 14 children’s books by Indigenous writers and artists.
6. Pray for the implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action
The Alliance Church of Canada has a comprehensive prayer guide that walks you through the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through learning, prayer and other resources. Consider journeying with this robust resource through a longer period beyond September 30th!
KAIROS also has compiled a list of resources for Christian settlers to engage prayerfully on the history and impact of residential schools in Canada.
Curious about what the journey of truth and reconciliation looks like for your faith community beyond September 30?
Guided by our relationships with Indigenous Christian elders and lived experience seeking God’s shalom alongside Indigenous neighbours in urban communities, our Learning and Collaboration team is available to come alongside your group in taking the next step towards truth and reconciliation. We work closely with groups to offer relevant coaching, consulting and/or facilitated learning opportunities.
Compiled and written by Wendy Au Yeung