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Prayer for truth and reconciliation

Posted February 24, 2024 by Mark Anderson Leave a comment

Prayer for truth and reconciliation

Posted February 24, 2024 by Mark Anderson Leave a comment

Here’s the prayer I offered at my church to commemorate a recent Truth and Reconciliation Day. Click here for a brief introduction to my prayer’s tragic background.

We thank you, dear God, for the process of Truth and Reconciliation begun some 15 years ago and the Canadian government’s acknowledgement—late, late, though it was—of the evils we, as a people, have committed against our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Thank you that we’ve begun dismantling the unjust systems that oppress Indigenous people. But we know there’s much yet to be done.

We’re so grateful to live here. We think especially of the tribes on whose lands we live: the Musqueam, the Squamish, and the Tsleil-Waututh. We pray you’d richly bless them and help us to work together with them to make our city flourish.

St. Anne’s Residential School, Fort Albany, ON

We lament all the First Nations children forcibly sent to residential schools, the unspeakable abuse many of them suffered—tragically, so much of it in Christ’s name. We lament the thousands of First Nations children buried in unmarked graves across Canada, leaving their families with gaping holes they could never close. As the God who cares about each sparrow that falls, help us to care about each of these families as you do.

Residential school in Quebec, 1890

Lord, we grieve with you over all the First Nations communities destroyed, as the residential school survivors returned home and the shame and grief from the abuse they suffered seeped down, unspoken, into a bitter silence. We lament that they, their families, and their communities were then further ravaged by the drugs and alcohol so many turned to in a futile attempt to escape their pain. Successive Canadian governments that we elected inflicted that pain on them, using our tax dollars, but without our knowledge. We grieve to think of so much brokenness cascading from one Indigenous generation to the next—all the stigma, indignity, and dispossession they now bear from our mistreatment of them. Have mercy, we pray. Comfort and heal the afflicted, both the 80,000 living residential school survivors and the hundreds of thousands of Indigenous adults and children still suffering the effects of their wounding.

In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers.

Students of the Indian Mission School, Whitehorse, YT

Lord, we’re horrified to know that a residential school up in Whitehorse was run by fellow Baptists. Since no existing Baptist denomination has owned what happened there, help us in the CBWC (Canadian Baptists of Western Canada) to seek your face till we discern what you’d have us do to help the survivors to heal from the trauma they suffered. Give us your heart for them, we pray. Like you, Jesus, may we leave the safety of the sheepfold and seek the lost sheep till it’s found. For you look for faithfulness in the character of our relationships, no less than in the content of our creeds.

Lord Jesus, coming to church this morning, we passed many broken-looking homeless men and women sleeping on the sidewalk. I don’t know what their stories are, but you do. Please help us to see our city’s homeless folk as you do. Help us to care especially for those who have come to Vancouver to escape the ongoing trauma of life on the reservations they call home. Thank you for the fine work of Bob Swan over many years and now of David Nacho, ministering to the marginalized and homeless among us. Bless everything David and his volunteer team does, and all that Jacob’s Well, Promise Vancouver, Hope Mission, and everyone else does to minister to these precious souls.

In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers.

With you, Lord God, we lament the many thousands of Indigenous kids forcibly taken from their parents over more than five decades, as provincial governments across the country put them in foster homes to be raised by white families. This was just a new expression of the residential school’s aim of “killing the Indian in the child.” And even as late as 2008, Indigenous children were six times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be taken by BC’s child welfare system. Lord, we’re angry to think that our government used our tax dollars to do this, but covertly, without broadcasting it. Forgive us, Lord, for our part in such evil, unwitting though it was. And for all the victims of this abusive system, comfort and heal them we pray.

We join you, O God, in grieving over each culture erased, all the lands stolen. I recall how shocked I was, driving to Onion Lake, to see that the government had located the reservation just beyond where Alberta and Saskatchewan’s seemingly endless miles of rich farmland ended—on scrubby land that would never grow crops without very specialized instruction—education the people in Onion Lake asked for, but never received. The Canadian officials who did this felt sure white society would benefit from marginalizing the First Nations peoples like that, but the material gain their injustice bought us has impoverished our souls. Forgive us, God, that we’ve so mistreated the peoples on whose lands we live.

Indigenous protester carried off for protesting legally on Pacheedaht territory, BC, 2021

Lord, we know our corporations and our governments, which so typically cater to them, haven’t fundamentally changed. They typically care about little besides the bottom line, getting more money. They don’t care for all those who lose out in the process. They don’t care about the environment. The news media constantly show us the many things they do on the sly, when they know they’re being unjust. We know Canada’s abuse of Indigenous tribes—so many in BC still deprived of treaties—continues apace, despite all our governments’ fine words. We ask you to help us see these wrongs righted and the self-determination of Indigenous peoples on the little land we’ve left them honored and respected.

In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers.

We thank you for all our dear brothers and sisters in Onion Lake. They bear the wounds our fellow Canadians inflicted on them in so many respects. Grant them your grace, your mercy, your healing touch. Grant Pastor Martin Naistus your wisdom, boldness, and endurance to shepherd his flock as you’d have him do.  Be with him as he visits other reservations in the region, taking the good news of the God who cares for the poor and vulnerable and who knows the proud and arrogant from afar. As we think of the approaching Covid season, we pray you’d give Pastor Martin and his community health and resilience. Protect them from all evil.

We pray for the thousands of Indigenous family members of young women and girls that have gone missing and been murdered. Lord, our police have seldom taken this tragedy seriously enough, leaving it to the families to try to solve the cases themselves and figure out what happened to their girls instead. We’d like to wash our hands of this evil, but in a democracy like ours, ultimately all of us are responsible for what our police and courts do or don’t do. Please look down on these abandoned families and help our police and courts to care for their needs as you want them to.

We thank you for Matt and Caitlin Windsor and their Bible translation ministry in Northern Ontario. We’re so honored to have them visiting us today. We pray for blessing on them, their family, and all the work they’re involved in. We pray also for the rest of the believers at Kingfisher Lake, bless and protect them and their dear families, we ask.

Help us to join in solidarity with all our First Nations friends as they struggle to heal and to recover their dignity, their culture, and their hope for the future. May we love them as you do and treat them as the brothers and sisters they are. Make all of us at First Baptist people who give you a good reputation among our First Nations brothers and sisters. May we not rest till every Indigenous Canadian enjoys all the freedoms and dignity the rest of us have. May we seek deeper reconciliation, founded on the truth, however painful it may be, because, Jesus, you died to accomplish this too.

In your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers.  Amen.

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—C.S. Lewis

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