Contributed by Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls,
Anglican Church of Canada
Five years ago I made my home in London, Ontario, as I took on the responsibilities of Coadjutor and then diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Huron. It is a city I love. It is a city of beauty that has preserved natural forests and walking areas in every community, new and old. It is a friendly city where everyone you pass on the street nods and says ‘Hello’ and children wave. And, like all communities, it is a city where hatred can still find a place and racism exists.
Last Sunday evening, a young white man deliberately drove his truck into a family of five out for an evening walk. They are a Muslim family. He killed three adults, one teen, and left a younger child seriously injured. He has now been charged with first degree murder, and it is believed this was an intentional hate crime. This is not the first incident of anti-Muslim hate in London—just the most recent. It joins a litany of other such hate crimes in Canada such as the attack on the mosque in Quebec City in 2017.
Canadians are also reeling from the revelations regarding unmarked burials of 215 children at a residential school near Kamloops, B.C.. The wounds of residential schools have been ripped open for Indigenous people and Canadians are having to examine how this could have happened. One aspect of this is embedded racism. Both government and society, including the churches, denied the inherent dignity of Indigenous peoples. Lack of adequate funding for decent construction of schools, food provisions and supplies; and, the entrenchment of attitudes of white superiority—this all led to treatment of Indigenous children that was substandard and at times directly abusive. It was tolerated despite the voice of the government Medical Superintendent General, Dr. Peter Bryce (1911–1921) who tried to raise the alarm about the inordinately high death rate of children in residential schools. His cries were ignored. He was sidelined and ultimately released from his job. No one wanted to hear or to change. Full enfranchisement under the law was not completed for Indigenous people in Canada until 1969. Attitudes of racism are still easily seen in Canada—not least of all, in the ongoing challenge of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children.
Our journey in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples continues, as we seek to decolonize the ways in which we have shared the gospel and denied recognition to the presence of the Creator in Indigenous communities and worship. We seek to listen and to work with Indigenous leaders and to fulfill the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Archbishop Mark MacDonald, Melanie Delva, Indigenous bishops and leaders in the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples are our companions. The hard work of dismantling our assumptions about privilege and continuing colonialism is ours to do as we also advocate with the government and hold it accountable for its promises.
The Anglican Church of Canada is committed to dismantling: racism; acts of hatred; and culturally and religiously motivated hate, in all their forms. This includes Islamophobia, which is again on the rise. In January 2020, together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, we signed on to A Common Word Between Us and You. This letter initiated ongoing dialogue between Christians and Muslims around the world through studying our shared scriptures, deepening relationships and seeking understanding. We start with respect for one another in our common humanity and in our relationship with God. This work breaks down misunderstandings, builds relationships that move us from strangers to friends and enriches us both. This is the work we must engage to counter the threads of hatred being woven by others.
These past two weeks have once again revealed the sinfulness which human beings and systems can and do perpetuate through racism and hatred. As we grieve with the Muslim family in London in their losses; and, as we grieve with Indigenous families reliving intergenerational trauma and losses — let us commit our Church as a whole and in our local communities to the work of dismantling colonialism, racism and hatred wherever it is revealed.
God grant us eyes to see the truth and courage to act.