The greatest personal conflict I face as a Catholic and civically engaged-justice searching global citizen is reconciling the violent/bloody history through which my faith has emerged, its complicity in producing the oppressive reality/social structures I am challenging, and the rhetoric of my faith that constantly invites all to seek justice, charity and generosity. So far, I have found mental sanity in affirming this rhetoric by believing that the Church (in action) has a role to play in bringing about a more just world. In my mind, this means that the church and its members have to go for “confession” and do the accompanying “penance”. Within the context of Canada, this means amongst other things, the church has to fully own up to its complicity in facilitating the evolution of a historically oppressive Canada to certain populations, to its role in breaking souls/families (in irreparable ways) of indigenous people and then actively working to act for justice and bringing its congregation to terms with this history.
My experience in Canadian Catholic churches have been far from this – today for example, the priest preached about charity and service to strangers. I wondered how in Canada, the strangers (we Immigrants) are socialized to amputate history and go around acting like we are the custodians of the land. Then we went on to pray for Canada’s 150th and for religious freedom but no mention of indigenous people, the need for healing and justice in the land. I refused to say Amen to that prayer. And then the shocker came when the priest asked that we sing Canadian anthem! My belly tumbled. What does it mean for us to sing the Canadian anthem in Church, before the final blessings? Are we celebrating and sanctifying the blood and erased lives this country has emerged on or what? The journey to finding mental sanity and full belonging in the catholic church is clearly going to be a life long journey.
Until then, I will not celebrate “Canada day”. I rather remind myself that all that I enjoy in Canada has come at the dehumanization and erasure of many indigenous lives. I had rather educate myself about this painful history and reflect on how my scholarship and actions can contribute to justice. I rather reflect on what an alternative global social arrangement could be that doesn’t necessarily come at the cost of stealing people’s resources, killing others and erasing them from memory. I had rather celebrate the possibility of us all becoming intellectually upright, honest and pursuing the decolonization and humanization of Canada for all.