Seeds of peace in the desert

This week’s blog is written by Mark Tymm, currently serving with MCC as Peace and Justice Assistant for the Department of Ethics, Peace & Justice in Chad. Mark is a former MCC Ottawa Office intern.

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With Dogos Victor, my supervisor and the Coordinator of EPJ (April 2015)

I recently boarded a plane in N’Djamena, Chad, and returned to North America after completing my second term with MCC. During the past year I have been serving with the SALT program, working as Peace & Justice Assistant to MCC’s long-term Chadian partner, the Department of Ethics, Peace & Justice (EPJ).

It’s been an interesting year to serve overseas and to monitor issues of peace and justice both in N’Djamena and around the world. My year has been filled with learning about the Chadian context, building connections between MCC and its partners, learning Arabic, and improving my French. Additionally, I had the amazing opportunities to manage a water project in a displaced-persons camp, and work closely with some remarkable people.

In the mid-1990s MCC encouraged its local partner, the Coalition of Evangelical Churches and Missions in Chad (EEMET), to address issues of injustice and conflict. As a result, the Department of Ethics, Peace & Justice (EPJ) was created.

Since then, EPJ has become a recognized leader among Chadian organizations in the field of interfaith conflict transformation.

EPJ’s peacebuilding work brings together religious leaders from Catholic, Evangelical and Muslim backgrounds. In our week-long seminars, we sit together, eat together, schedule time for both Muslim and Christian participants to engage in prayer and worship services, and, of course, provide Arabic and French translation of all our speakers. We discuss the importance of peace in the central African country. We invite guest lecturers to speak on Islamic peace traditions. We plan sessions on mediation and nonviolent conflict management, and always leave lots of time to address questions, discuss in small-groups and review practical case studies.

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Women in central Chad gather in Mongo to discuss peacebuilding (April 2015)

Our programs are well-known and respected among Chadians, and we have been welcomed and endorsed by the local government in each province we have worked in.

The act of the religious leaders actively engaging together in peace dialogue is recognized by the public as an important step in the right direction, especially given the challenging experiences Chad is undergoing.

As a pacifist I am often challenged to know where to stand on various issues. Not least of these are the security threats that face Chad: to the north, a civil war rages in Libya; on the eastern border, conflict shrouds Sudan; the southern region of the country has suddenly become home to over 100,000 who have fled violence in Central African Republic; now, Nigeria’s challenges with Islamic extremist group Boko Haram are spilling in from the west. In the past several weeks, the group has been responsible for four bombs in N’Djamena that have left dozens dead and hundreds wounded. Thankfully, I have been told that these events have not been particular sources of division or discontentment between Christians and Muslims in the capital.

What is a peace-loving boy from Chilliwack, BC to say? That the Chadian military should disband when the general population trusts them for their protection? That local law enforcement should not be apprehending insurgent cell groups in the Chadian capital?

How do we find a balance between witnessing to the powers who seem to be trying desperately to protect their own people, and rejecting the use of force to contain violence?

What can be said is that although the Chadian military is regarded as a force to be reckoned with in conventional warfare, like many other militaries around the world, it seems ill-prepared to deal with the unique challenges it is now facing.

Dealing with complex security issues—like extremist violence—certainly isn’t a simple task. Programs that promote anti-radicalization, initiatives that help narrow economic disparity between peoples, and projects that build community across religious or social divisions take years of work, stable civil society organizations, and a very engaged and involved public. Without the time to establish these civic structures, I am at a reluctant and unfortunate loss of words for how to contain violence in the present.

And yet the AK-47s posted on street corners don’t seem to be doing much better to promote peace either…

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Local pastors in N’Djamena meet to discuss conflict transformation (March 2015)

I used to think most of these challenges had easy answers: “Violence, even defensive in nature, is never acceptable.” “People should look past their differences and accept others.” That has changed. Certainly, I haven’t abandoned any of my nuanced Anabaptist perspectives on the importance of peacebuilding, reconciliation, or justice-seeking. If anything, my convictions and passion to contribute to these efforts alongside respected local partners have only deepened and grown. But I recognize the complexity of dealing effectively with the challenges violence brings.

And so our work continues. Progress is made one small step at a time. Muslim and Christian leaders come away from our workshops as friends, and begin new relationships built on mutual understanding and respect. They call each other in times of conflict to make sure that the others family is safe. Slowly, walls of division are broken down and bridges of relationships are built.

To be sure, there are days of uncertainty, but we see small glimmers of hope in our pursuit of peace and justice.

It’s just coffee and flowers…

This week’s blog is written by Thomas Coldwell, who is currently volunteering with MCC Ottawa, and interning as Associate Pastor with the Village International Mennonite Church. In fall, he will join MCC Alberta as Peace and Community Engagement Coordinator.

This past May, I co-led the MCC Alberta/Saskatchewan Uprooted 2015 delegmonumento-a-la-revolucionation to Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. We learned about migration.

Many in Mexico and Guatemala (and Canada, too) migrate for economic reasons. They are unable to sustain a decent standard of living due to poverty or a lack of job opportunities.

Some migrants, especially from the rural areas, are small-scale landless subsistence farmers (or campesinos) who are unable to earn a sustainable income from the crops they produce. A lot of these crops—like coffee and flowers—are major exports, destined for countries like Canada.

Other migrating peoples are forced from their homes due to violence or instability. Across the region, people are leaving the familiar in search of both safety and economic opportunity. We met MCC partners helping peoples on the move and supporting initiatives for alternatives to migration.

Since arriving back in Ottawa, I find myself more often reading the “Product of…” labels on the foods I buy. My favourite yellow mangoes sold by street vendors in Mexico City are also available at my local grocery store. Our world is very interconnected—especially when it comes to food and drink.

An employee of Cafe Justo demonstating how  coffee is roasted in Agua PrietaAh, coffee. The smell. The taste. I wouldn’t say I’m a committed coffee-drinker (coffee and tea are equally enjoyable), but I do like a cup o’ joe. And so do many others: over 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada ever year (according to Statistics Canada). That’s about 398 cups of coffee per person per year (more than a cup-a-day for everyone in Canada). Coffee’s a big deal! And in 2009, most of Canada’s raw coffee was imported from Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala.

During the learning tour, we visited Cafe Justo (“Just Coffee”)—a coffee co-operative of over 100 families in Mexico. The coffee beans are grown and harvested in the Chiapas region and sent to roast in Agua Prieta on the Northern border. Small-scale farmers often get the shorter end of the stick when competing with agri-businesses in places like Mexico and Guatemala. Traditionally, the “middle-man” buys coffee from the farmers to sell to the manufacturers for a profit. This often leaves the farmers with insufficient funds for their basic needs. The Cafe Justo co-operative sells directly to the consumer (businesses, churches, and individuals) after deciding what their coffee is worth. This business model has allowed 100 families to reach a decent standard of living without having to migrate.

Supporting fair trade helps small-scale farmers live with dignity in their communities. It provides choice: to leave or not to leave.My patio garden in Ottawa

This summer, Jen (my wife) and I decided to grow a garden on our patio. It’s been a fun journey as we’ve witnessed seeds sprouting and transforming into vibrant, green plants. Watching our flowers bloom has also been a joy for us!

While in the Guatemalan highlands, the Uprooted team visited MCC partners in Tonina who grew organic vegetables and flowers with no chemicals. Their gardens were beautiful. They sell their flowers across the border in Mexico. Many of the flowers imported to Canada from Latin America are grown under harsh labour conditions with high chemical usage, putting both workers and the environment at risk. But working in the flower industry is the primary source of income for some.

The question I ask myself is: How then shall I live? I find myself more concerned about the type of chocolate I purchase (and I love to purchase it). Or the coffee I drink. Or the flowers I enjoy. Purchasing fair trade is one way to support my global neighbours. Being mindful of systems and processes that do not always promote the well-being and dignity of people is part of my journey. Considering fair trade first (both globally and locally) can lead to decisions that will positively influence the lives of others.

But is it really worth it to support fair trade cooperatives? After all, it’s just coffee and flowers. And yet coffee and flowers allow people to feed their families, support their children’s education, and remain in their regions without needing to migrate for economic purposes. These projects serve as alternatives to migration.

When justice is partnered with human-centered business, the outcome is “just coffee” or “just flowers”—which means more than I can fully comprehend.

What’s in a word?

This week’s blog post was written by Sue Eagle, who is MCC Canada’s Indigenous Neighours Program Co-coordinator alongside Miriam Sainnawap

When I attend Indigenous events or meetings, I listen for themes or for wisdom that might give my work direction. I try to pay special attention to those voices that are not often listened to.

In spring, I was at one of the most highly-attended meetings at the United Naunpfii_logotions in New York City. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is 14 years old. It has become an event where Indigenous Peoples world-wide gather to build solidarity, inform other Indigenous nations and organizations about what is happening in their homelands and find ways to bring their issues to the attention of the United Nations.

One of the common threads that I found weaving in and out of the sessions and events was that words hold power.

The word “Indigenous” was claimed back in 1974 by the people who gathered to work on their rights at the United Nations level. They spent some time deciding what they should collectively call themselves. They chose “Indigenous.” The word was claimed in an act of solidarity and resistance.

Kairos Canada's Gathering at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.   The opening plenary session was moderated by Gabrielle Fayant (co-director of the ReachUp! North Program), and featured Mike Cachagee, former president of the National Residential Schools Survivor Society, Marie Wilson, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and Jah'Kota, hiphop artist, musician, founder of Un1ty Entertainment.

From Kairos Canada’s Gathering at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa (Photo courtesy of Alison Ralph, MCC Canada).

“Peoples” with an “s,” turns a generic group of individuals into distinct nations, according to Oren Lyons, faith-keeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy and long-time leader in Indigenous rights work at the United Nations level. With the “s,” they become Arapahos, Dakotas, Haudenosaune, Dene, Anishinabee, Cheyenne, Sami, Metis, and Mayans. The use of that word is part of the movement to get member status for each of these Indigenous nations within the United Nations.

An “s” can change reality for vast numbers of Peoples/people.

In a session on “Indigeneity and Spirituality,” LeMoine LaPointe, Sicangu Lakota, clarified that Indigenous culture was not “lost,” but it has been interrupted. A change in words turns a passive action into an intentional act. The concept that culture has been interrupted highlights the strength and resiliency of Peoples, overwhelmingly evident at the Permanent Forum.

In speaking about her plans to introduce an intervention on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the UNPFII, Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Ph.D., president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, adamantly stated that “car keys go missing.” Indigenous women are “being stolen” from their families and communities. To say that they are missing does not do justice to the reality that they and their loved ones are facing. Again, the verb “missing” is passive, while “stolen” refers to a deliberate action.

Words can turn human beings into concerns….

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Sue Eagle, walking with the over 7,000 people who joined in the walk for reconciliation in Ottawa (Photo courtesy of Alison Ralph).

“We are Peoples, not issues,” I heard one person say. The reference was to the title for the meetings – The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. There has been talk around changing the name of the gathering. In fact it was one of the recommendations put forward in a previous UNPFII. Some Indigenous people present have decided to start using the words “United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples,” rather than wait for the powers that be to approve it.

Words hold power and they need to be chosen carefully. Choosing words is not simply about semantics or being politically correct. It is about visibility, strength and identity. It is about resistance.

Remembering Srebrenica — 11 July 2015

This week’s guest writer and photographer is Jennifer Epp, Human Resources administrative assistant (international) at MCC Canada in Winnipeg. Jennifer visited the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery in October 2013.

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, a town situated in northeastern Bosnia. During the Bosnian War (1992-1995), Srebrenica was designated by the United Nations’ as its first-ever “safe area” in April 1993. Thousands of Bosnian Muslim (“Bosniak”) refugees found temporary safety there.

However, the United Nations’ promise to provide protection for refugees collapsed. And on 11 July1995, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić led Serbian troops into Srebrenica.

Serb forces separated women and children from the men and put them on buses destined for Tuzla, a city located over 100 kilometers away. Approximately 15,000 men and boys attempted to escape the Serbian military by fleeing on foot through mountains and forests in order to seek protection in Tuzla. However, over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in what was later identified as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

This week I remember Srebrenica.

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The Srebrenica Memorial Stone indicates the number of dead: “8372 … the total number of victims which is not final.”  The munipalities from which missing victims of the massacre originated are listed on the left-hand side.

IMG_4317Large slabs of stone are engraved with the names of massacre victims. This tragic event has been called the worst massacre on European soil since the Second World War.

IMG_4341The Dutch UN Peacekeepers’ headquarters was located in a former battery factory outside Potočari, six kilometers from Srebrenica.

IMG_4312No camera can possibly capture the overwhelming immensity of the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery. Many people will mark the twentieth anniversary on 11 July 2015 by returning to the cemetery for a collective burial of newly-identified remains.

IMG_4344Since the Dayton Peace Agreement was struck in Autumn 1995, Srebrenica is located in the predominantly-Serbian entity known as Republika Srpska, which is within the present country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some Bosniaks returned to Srebrenica after the war but post-war rebuilding of the town has been slow.

IMG_0907BH Crafts, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only certified member of the World Fair Trade Organization, is also commemorating its twentieth anniversary in 2015. The company began as a project at a refugee centre built near Tuzla in 1995 by The Norwegian People’s Aid. BH Crafts provides hope-filled employment for women of all ethnicities in a country where the unemployment rate remains above 40 percent. The women continue to heal from war trauma as they learn traditional skills such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery and weaving and create high-quality clothing, toys and souvenirs from local fibers. A tag is attached to each finished product with the name of the woman who created it.

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This week I remember and I pray…

Acknowledging treaty and territory

This week’s guest writer is Steve Plenert, peace program coordinator for MCC Manitoba.

“I just think it’s annoying.”  That’s how my conversation with someone from church ended one Sunday after worship. The person had just pointed out that on the cover of our new church directory we had included “Treaty 1 Territory” as part of the address of our church building.

Hundreds of people particpated in a mass blanket exercise on the steps of Parliament Hill, lead by members of Kairos. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.

Hundreds of people participate in a mass blanket exercise on the steps of Parliament Hill. The blanket exercise teaches Canadian history from the perspective of indigenous peoples. MCC photo by Alison Ralph.

“That’s a political statement” he went on, clearly irate. I tried to make some statements to defuse the tension, but clearly the high dudgeon he was experiencing was more important to him at the moment than having a conversation about issues relating to colonial history and indigenous-settler relationships.But it got me thinking. I thought about it during lunch (hotdogs), clean-up, and even while I was golfing that evening. I thought about two questions: First, is church a place where people are supposed to get annoyed? And second, so soon after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing, what are appropriate ways of acknowledging this troubled/troubling era of Canadian history?

Although I didn’t initiate the “address change” on the directory, I actually think that’s a pretty good symbolic way of identifying with Indigenous people.  The history of Mennonites with Indigenous people here in Manitoba slants pretty heavily in favour of the Mennonites. When you look at measures like education, economic class, cultural stability, representation in society, we Mennos stack up very high on the positive side of the ledger.  As with all settler peoples here in Canada some of this, at the very least, comes at the expense of Indigenous people.  So, if we acknowledge that the land was generously shared with us and sometimes confiscated on our behalf, putting “Treaty 1 Territory” on our bulletins and directory doesn’t feel inappropriate to me at all.

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Walk for Reconciliation, Ottawa, May 31, 2015. MCC photo by Alison Ralph.

Our congregation also hosts community people on Sunday mornings before the worship service. People come for coffee, breakfast and conversation. Many of them are Indigenous. This has been going on for years now and some good relationships have been established.  Quite a few of those folks now consider our congregation “their church” – whatever that means to them. I think that’s pretty cool. In an era of “truth and reconciliation” relationship-building and hospitality, perhaps this is what is called for.  It’s not everything, but it’s something.  Maybe having “their” address as part of “our” address can help us see each other as part of one body. That would be good.

But is church supposed to be a place to go to get annoyed?  Probably. At least some of the time. Because if we’re not annoyed with each other occasionally, we’re probably not being honest with each other. There’s always the question as to whose annoyance takes priority, mind you. Is it more important that one person feel annoyed over an experiment with identifying with Indigenous people or do we prioritize the annoyance of never saying anything about this topic?

Maybe you wonder about my use of the word “annoyance.”  It’s particularly appropriate, I think, because I am in the privileged position of being able to choose my annoyances.  Settler privilege and priority have a rich history in the church. Mennonite settler types, such as myself, are in the places of power. That means we get to pick how words get used.  Perhaps we use some of that privilege to add a line to the church directory in the hopes of seeing one of the troubled pages of Canadian history getting written with a more inclusive story.

The adage says that the gospel should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  In my view, this is a fairly minor “affliction” – if an annoyance for some – that can hopefully contribute to  more respectful and authentic relationships with Indigenous people in Canada.

The people behind the headlines — opening our hearts to refugees

We see it on the news almost every day – headlines of migration from around the world. We can become easily overwhelmed by the magnitude of the numbers; the millions of people on the move, in refugee camps, uprooted from their homes. But what about the people behind these headlines – their stories? In light of the growing global crisis of forced migration, it is critical to keep telling the stories and opening our hearts to the human side of migration.

June 20 is World Refugee Day, and all across the country this week people are marching, standing with refugees who have come to Canada and expressing solidarity with those around the world who are seeking refuge. We think of those risking their lives in precarious boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the Bay of Bengal; those making the dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico; the hundreds of thousands who have fled or are still fleeing violence in Burundi and Rwanda, Syria and Lebanon, and now living in refugee camps all over the world. All of these people long for peace and a better life for their children.

MCC's partner organization Iraqi al-Amal Association distributed material resources to internally-displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. These materials -- including blankets, infant care kits, hygiene kits, and relief kits -- were donated by MCC constituents in the United States and Canada and provide much-needed assistance to individuals and families currently staying in Kirkuk and Erbil cities. Iraqi al-Amal Association supplemented the MCC-donated materials with other materials purchased in Iraq, providing a well-rounded distribution to meet the immediate needs of the recipients. (Photo by Salar Ahmed)

MCC’s partner organization Iraqi al-Amal Association distributed material resources to internally-displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  (MCC Photo by Salar Ahmed)

A recent report by Amnesty International lines up with what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has already said: with more than 50 million people around the world who have been forcefully displaced, either in their own country or beyond their borders, this is the worst forced migration crisis our world has seen since World War II.

Earlier this month Stephen Cornish, Director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders Canada, challenged Canadians to recognize our shared humanity with those fleeing or living in refugee camps. We must also recognize our responsibility for opening our doors and our hearts with those those needing safety and protection.

In thinking about the concept of shared humanity, one passage of scripture stands out. A lesson from the very beginning, Genesis 1: all people are made in the image of God – the call and challenge for us all to look at others from God’s viewpoint. We support and respect each other, mourn together, but also are joyful together.

This also reminds me of a recent personal encounter with migration.

Last month Ottawa Mennonite Church (OMC) hosted the “People on the Move” exhibit, which is an MCC resource created with the help of partners around the world to tell stories of migration. It tells personal stories of refugees, people who have been displaced, or people who have had to move, seeking new opportunities. Along with the display, OMC invited many of their sponsored refugee families, as well as members of the congregation who have been involved in the sponsorship process to share their stories.

Among the panelists were people from Somalia, Iraq, Colombia, Syria and Canada, along with people in the audience who had come from Sudan, DR Congo and other parts of the world. It was a wonderful and impactful time of sharing and showing support for one another. There are so many highlights to share, but I will focus on two.

The Abukhousa family — Palestinians from Iraq — arrived as refugees in Altona, Manitoba in 2010. They were sponsored by an Altona group called Build a Village. (MCC Photo by Joanie Peters)

Laila (not her real name) is a young mother who arrived from Iraq last year with her husband and daughters. She spoke only a few words, but had a powerful message.  As a Muslim family, Laila and her husband were so joyful that a church community wanted to sponsor them, walk alongside them in this difficult time of transition, and build relationships, despite cultural, language and religious divides. The friendship between Laila’s family and several families from OMC was clearly evident. I don’t recall Laila’s exact words, but will paraphrase to the best of my ability, “We are people, just like you, who desire peace. We have hopes and dreams for our family.”

Angelica (also not her real name) and her family arrived from Colombia as refugees fleeing violence when she was just 12 years old in 2003. She shared about the difficult transition: the loss of her home, the challenges of a new language and culture, the end of a future in Colombia. But she also shared about the joys of community and support in Ottawa. One memory stuck out for Angelica on the day she arrived in Canada, a memory that is still vivid and still brings tears to her eyes. When she and her family descended the escalator at the Ottawa airport, a crowd of people awaited them, excited to meet them, greeting them with open arms. These were people who had never met her, yet their love and support was clear. Angelica has since become involved with other arriving refugee families, particularly another family from Colombia, because she wants to show them the same love and support which she received.

This year let us stand in solidarity with refugees here and around the world. Let us open our hearts to them. Let us seek to recognize our common humanity.

By Rebekah (Bekah) Sears, policy analyst for the Ottawa Office.

The closing of the TRC: in seven parts

This week’s guest writer is Eileen Klassen Hamm, program director for MCC Saskatchewan. The photos were taken by Alison Ralph of MCC Canada during KAIROS’ Time for Reconciliation gathering and the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, May 28 to June 3, 2015.

More than 7000 people gathered to walk for reconciliation. The walk began at Ecole Secondaire de l'Ile in Gatineau, Quebec, and ended aproximately 5 kilometres away at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.

More than 7000 people gathered to walk for reconciliation. The walk began at Ecole Secondaire de l'Ile in Gatineau, Quebec, and ended aproximately 5 kilometres away at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.    	At the start of the walk, organizers arranged for several notable people to speak, encouraging walkers for reconciliation.RS50673_IMG_2515-scrMore than 7000 people gathered to walk for reconciliation. The walk began at Ecole Secondaire de l'Ile in Gatineau, Quebec, and ended aproximately 5 kilometres away at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.RS50971_IMG_3107-scrJustice Murray Sinclair addresses walkers and those gathered at Marion Dewar Plaza in Ottawa. More than 7000 people gathered to walk for reconciliation. The walk began at Ecole Secondaire de l'Ile in Gatineau, Quebec, and ended aproximately 5 kilometres away at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.

More than 7000 people gathered to walk for reconciliation. The walk began at Ecole Secondaire de l'Ile in Gatineau, Quebec, and ended aproximately 5 kilometres away at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.    	At the start of the walk, organizers arranged for several notable people to speak, encouraging walkers for reconciliation.I
I am a woman born blind
socialized into a colonial story
with church collusion
was it my sin
or my parents’
but now my eyes
have been washed
with the mud of survivors’ stories
and I am beginning
to see

II
in front of me
sit rows and rows
of survivors
I receive the words
of the commissioners
filtered
through these now old bodies
which carry within them
child bodies
taken
from circles of love
humiliated
abused
buried in unmarked graves
a massive test
for something so small as words
to ring true
Hundreds of people particpated in a mass blanket exercise on the steps of Parliament Hill, lead by members of Kairos. Members of First Nations communities, faith communities and many others participated including those from Mennonite churches and MCCer's from across the system.through the bodies of children
listening for
acknowledgement
recognition
dignity
love

III
a horrific moral wound
intergenerational trauma
cultural genocide
listen
no matter how uncomfortable
an important lesson
awaits

IV
the commissioners
are midwives of a new day
delivering us out of the dark
toward love and respect
with art and dance
drum and song
reminding us
to be human
together

V
ninety-four calls to action
no stones left unturned
let justice roll down like waters
righteousness like a deep river

VI
we are kin
made so by treaties
and the creator
do not turn yourselves
from your own kin
walk in a good way
toward reconciliation
through reparation and restitution
langRS51161_IMG_3873-scruages and cultures
lands and resources
do justice
love kindness
walk humbly
be gentle
with the children
and grandchildren
and great grandchildren

VII
back home
along the south saskatchewan river
where my grandmother
coaxed vegetables and roses
from the sandy soil
providing feasts for our bodies and souls
what will I do with my reclaimed sight
the test of our love
will always be
the tender hearts
of all the children

For further reading:

TRC Findings http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890
Response of the Churches to the TRC http://www.anglican.ca/news/response-of-the-churches-to-the-truth-and-reconciliation-commission-of-canada/3004539/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+acc-news+%28Anglican+Church+of+Canada+News+Stories%29
John 9, Amos 5, Isaiah 58, Micah 6