(This article first appeared in the February 2018 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
Yesterday, we received news that another young person in an Indigenous community had taken their life. It is a deeply sad and disturbing event, for the family and community, but also for our entire network. This is happening with awful frequency and the pain has become a growing thing among us. We concentrate on hopeful response—support for our young people and their communities; trying to co-ordinate healing possibilities for all; and overcoming the oppressions of past and present—but each death and every attempt is a wound.
Still, we are a people who proclaim that in the midst of death, there is life. Our faith is in a crucified and risen Lord; life overcoming the power of death. It is nurturing and applying that hope, with a concentrated witness to our suffering communities, that is the heart of our work, as well as our commitment to continue until this pain is past and overcome. We know that a positive identity, coupled with hope, is a strong protection against the despair that leads some to take their lives. We labour to nurture these, in the midst of sadness. We struggle against the many forces that promote death.
The Good News will not allow us to give up; will not allow us to succumb to despair. We not only see hope in the words found in our Scripture—we see the Living Word of God embodied in the faithfulness of our elders, the resilience of so many of our young people and the courage of so many of our church members. This is a living hope, born of faith, confirmed in the awareness of God’s presence in the midst of pain.
Let people of heart and hope join together in prayer, action and witness. The poverty and struggle of many of our reserve communities and many of our folks in urban areas needs to change. All of Canada must commit to that, must no longer tolerate such conditions in a nation like ours. In addition to the practical expressions of help and support, we must dismantle the colonial structures that continue to breed pain and despair, on one side, and indifference and prejudice on the other. In this, it is urgent that we continue and expand our commitment to reconciliation, as outlined in the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In the Anglican Church of Canada, calls for self-determination for Indigenous churches and peoples are a part of our response to this crisis. This also needs support. The clergy who directly respond to this crisis are, for the most part, non-stipendiary. It is urgent that we find ways to support them in their courageous and demanding work.
We also believe in prayer and ask all to join in this urgent act of help, hope and witness. To stand together, in solidarity and hope, is an act of witness and love that is needed by all of our network. Please join us in this proclamation of the Resurrection in the midst of death.
Bishop Mark MacDonald is national Indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.