The residential school system in Canada was arrogance of the most destructive kind. To believe that one culture, one system of beliefs, is greater than another and thereby attempt to assimilate one into the other is the epitome of hubris. The Greatest Love does not care what you believe so long as you act with love in your heart.
My concern is that the Christian churches which administered the system did so because of their scripture. Because of their belief that only their religions could lead to salvation. If so, I’ve spoken before about John 14:6, but now we see the horrific effects of such a passage when applied blindly to our modern, pluralistic, World. Instead of seeing a proud people asking for dignity and respect, asking for love, the Christian missionaries saw heathens to be converted. John 14:6, I believe, was meant for another time. Its purpose has been achieved. What is needed now is respect for all cultures, beliefs and religions, which have a foundation in love.
For love does not take children away from their families in order to be assimilated into the prevailing culture of the time. And any god that would want such actions is not love. They are instead a false god. Is the Christian god a false god? No. So what must be the truth? The truth is the missionaries followed their scripture blindly while forgetting about love. They failed to see the peace and compassion that was a part of the Indigenous culture. They failed to see the love in the Indigenous people and thereby failed to see a path to salvation for them as well. They assumed that only their religions could teach love, compassion, and respect while failing to see how it was already present in the people they were trying to convert. Educate them as a means to economic prosperity. But steal their culture and beliefs? Take them from their parents and communities? Among other things, it was religious intolerance, and it resulted in a cultural genocide.
The immorality of the entire concept, agreed to by the governments and churches of the time is why the governments and churches of today need to make it right. This is even before we talk of the widespread physical, emotional, and sexual abuse experienced by the children at the schools. As if the cultural genocide was not enough.
I find it heartening though that a people so harmed are often found at the forefront of the environmental movement in my country. Theirs is a voice which must now be heard, for it has been silenced for far too long. Now is the time for their culture and beliefs to be recognized as just as great as any in Canada and the World.
For theirs is a lesson for us all. No single religion holds a monopoly on salvation. Instead, I believe, love is the key to salvation and it is cherished in all the great religions as well as many of the secular charters and constitutions of today.
And I believe the love that the Indigenous people share today with each other and the land, despite the harm they have endured in the past and present, will help to heal their wounds. It will take generations to heal them all. But a recognition that they are proud Nations whose beliefs and cultures are just as great as any other, I believe, is a necessary first step.