This is the year Canada celebrates 150 years as a confederation.
As we do so in 2017, what is the story we will share? While four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) came together on July 1, 1867 to form the new Dominion of Canada, the rest of the provinces joined later over time, with Nunavut as the most recent in 1999.
What does Canada have to celebrate with a sesquicentennial milestone? For some Canadians, it will be a time of reflection and thanksgiving for peace, freedom and their ability as newcomers from other nations to establish a better life. For others, it will be a time of lament that the generosity and hospitality of Indigenous people, existing as First Nations long before 1867, was returned with several broken treaties and stolen land.
For the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination in Canada, this is a reminder of signing onto the New Covenant Declaration 30 years ago to re-commit to living into the values of treaties.
The story of Indigenous people around the world is often full of pain and loss. One historical example of this from Canada includes actions of missionary movements and churches that forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families into residential schools in efforts to rid them of cultures and traditions that were perceived to be evil. Similar injustices are seen in many communities where World Renew works around the world. Too often, the communities with significant levels of poverty and injustice are Indigenous communities.
Recognizing that each person is created in the image of God, worthy of respect and value, World Renew, as an agency of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, works with Indigenous people to restore and reconcile relationships that have been broken and abusive. In Luke 4:18, Christ reminds us of the mission he gave us to share His love in ways that promote dignity and justice for all, especially those who are oppressed.
When we do this, we also support the fundamental freedoms and human rights that are expressed in 46 articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Last year, the Christian Reformed Church in Canada endorsed this declaration and committed to living into it in recognition that this helps us to live out our covenant commitments to Indigenous peoples.
So what are some examples of how World Renew works with Indigenous communities to fulfill articles in the UNDRIP and God’s call to renew, restore and reconcile with them? While there are many more stories to share, here is one from Guatemala.
Micaela, a mother from one of the families in Guatemala, testifies to the dramatic changes that happen when World Renew programs with partners are implementing new technical skills and a community-based approach to reduce isolation in Indigenous communities:
“The best thing that could have happened to us in life is to know about God through the gospel and the people of APIDEC (partner of World Renew),” Micaela said. “They taught us to raise a home garden where we are growing crops to eat and sell. We have radically changed our lives because we know that the APIDEC staff will treat us with love and respect.
“My family and I are really happy to live in a community that is improving because of its hard work. Now, our community is less isolated because a road has been built to it. During the last few years, we have also established schools, hired teachers, built health centers that provide care for our children, and set up a licensed cemetery. These are changes that we have achieved and that we will all benefit from. We hope to continue growing as families and together as community.”