The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada; representing Prime Minister Stephen Harper; along with Chief Kenny Blacksmith, received the highest honour that can be given by the Aboriginal people, in a sacred ceremony in which they were both presented with the headdress of a chief on Saturday.
Minister Strahl was then presented with gifts of colourful robes, blankets, and carvings in wood and stone; the finest handiwork of the Aboriginal people of Canada.
John 13:4-7 (New International Version)
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
I have done my best to share what I witnessed in Ottawa at the National Forgiven Summit over this past weekend; the sights, sounds and impressions that flooded my senses and soul, and I am almost finished, but not quite.
I saw in the process, an example that I will never forget, of how to forgive and how to demonstrate radical mercy.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized two years ago, for government policies that devastated a culture and generations of Aboriginal people, it was only the beginning.
The apology had been long awaited and it was a step, but only the first, in a journey of healing.
Is it coincidence that it took two years for the Aboriginal peoples to respond to the government? For anyone who has experienced the loss of someone they loved, two years is when the veil of mourning begins to lift. They took time to mourn, and time to prepare themselves to respond deeply and meaningfully.
Their forgiveness was given after a full acknowledgment of the extent of the offence. They articulated the offence themselves through telling their stories. It was important to bear witness. They did this not to wallow in self pity, or to shame the offender further, but to say, "This terrible thing happened. This is how we were affected."
Then began their journey across Canada, culminating in this past weekend's ceremonies and celebrations in the capital. They met in communities as they traveled; singing, praying, and breaking bondages of hurt and anger.
And when they finally faced a representative of the government of Canada, they treated him with highest honour, lavishing him with gifts. Cree children sang the national anthem to him in their own language. They were a living demonstration of the gospel.
Matthew 5:43-46 (New International Version)
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
There was dancing! Celebration! Beauty from ashes!
As the children of a new generation looked on, we must also continue to watch. We must work and pray for full justice and restoration.There is more to be done to right the wrongs of the past; building to be done now, on the foundation of forgiveness.