Truth and Reconciliation

by John Lewsen, July 31, 2022

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, its indifference.”

E Wiesel in US News Report, October 27, 1986

As I listened to the apology delivered earlier this week by Pope Francis to the residential school survivors and their families, I was struck by the role the Truth and Reconciliation process played leading up to his visit, and how this facilitated our listening, hearing, acknowledging, and striving to find a way forward from a troubled past.

In his address*, the Pope acknowledged that his presence could bring back old memories and hurts, and even create discomfort. Then, drawing on the wisdom of Elie Wiesel that I have referenced above, the Pope went on to say:

“Yet it is right to remember because forgetfulness leads to indifference.
and, as it has been said, the opposite of love is not hatred, it’s indifference
and the opposite of life is not death, It’s indifference.
To remember the devastating experiences that took place in the Residential Schools hurts, angers, causes pain and yet it is necessary.”

Some commentators have suggested the Pope’s apology and language fell short in that it didn’t specifically acknowledge the role played by the Church and didn’t reference the sexual abuses. This critique is understandable. Nevertheless, Pope Francis’ visit to Canada is hugely important and symbolic. It has shone a light on a dark period in our history. His presence has enabled us to hear again directly from individuals and families who were impacted by the devastation caused to First Nations people by the residential school system. Overall, Canadians appear to have responded positively to the Papal visit. His presence and caring mark a significant step forward, although what happens next will be the true measure of his visit.

Remembering the role churches played in facilitating a government policy of assimilation and enfranchisement also serves as a reminder of why religious institutions should never be indifferent to abuses of human rights or the breakdown of civil society.

* “Full text of the Pope’s apology to residential school survivors on Monday” in the Toronto Star, July 26, 2022

Filed under: President's Message

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