Dear Friends in Christ:
I have been reflecting for some time now on the ‘Idle No More’ movement, and the meeting that is to take place today between the AFN, various Aboriginal leaders, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Governor General. As a Native woman, and as the incoming chair of the division of ‘The Wider Church’ for Four Rivers Presbytery, I can no longer be idle. I felt it was my Christian responsibility to share my thoughts with you on the verge of this historic event.
To our government and those in leadership, a word from Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc? Isn’t negotiation a better path?… But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiations.” Indeed, the purpose of non-violent direct action is to achieve good faith negotiations, however the Aboriginal peoples of Canada have been coming to empty tables for over 500 years, and waiting for empty promises to be fulfilled. The heart of the Idle No More movement, and the protests leading to today’s meeting, is that we will no longer sit and wait at empty tables for more empty promises – we will bring the meetings to those who need to be held accountable. “So the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”
To those who might view the ‘Idle No More’ movement as adversarial, to those who oppose such political actions, because, after all, Aboriginal peoples have been free-loading off the government for years – let me repeat the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In Canada, we live in a First World country. We enjoy our running water, our houses, our children have a multiplicity of educational opportunities. There are still, however (in 2013!) communities living in third world conditions – Reservations with “boil water” advisories, or with no running water at all, inadequate housing, no schools, etc. Again, in the words of King: “You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place… But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being.” Remember that Jesus was an extremist too!
For those who would be apathetic, and pass off the plight of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada as someone else’s problem – what could we do, after all? – let me say this: The ‘Idle No More’ movement is not an Aboriginal movement. It is a movement for all who would cease to be complacent in the face of blatant racism, economic and social injustice. As Grandfather Commanda would say, we are all one nation now – it’s time we start acting like it, Aboriginal peoples and European descendants alike. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans and the Corinthians, we are the body of Christ, and individually we are members of it. If someone or something was abusing your foot, could you say that’s not your problem, let the hand deal with it? No, we are ALL members of that body – we are ALL brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps it is time to stand up, be idle no more, and do something about the plight of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. I encouragte you and invite you to do something today. Go to a protest, write a letter to your local MP or to the Prime Minister, offer a special prayer, change your status on Facebook, start dialogue with people you know who might not know about the movement. Do something.
I close now, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “…[It is my] hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure… In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the [Aboriginal peoples of Canada], I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, ‘Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular… In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love… Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls… Yes I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.”
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Yours in Christ’s Service,