From forgiveness to reconciliation

Yesterday, a day off for many. For a duty of remembrance towards the victims of Indian residential schools in our country. But it will take more than a day to tell the truth: it’s so much easier to see everything in black or white, when you have to qualify. It’s also reassuring to divide between the good guys and the bad guys, when those realities exist in every person.

It will also take more than a day to achieve the hoped-for reconciliation. The penitential pilgrimage of Pope Francis last July was an important step on this path. The forgiveness requested from the indigenous representatives in Rome during the winter, he came to reiterate it to all the survivors and the communities on their lands.

As soon as he arrived, he went to the site of a former Indian residential school. In Maskwacis, the land still bears the scars of still-open wounds. This place is marked by the ancestral memory of the arrival of European settlers. Instead of developing a fruitful encounter between cultures and spiritualities, assimilation policies have marginalized populations by suppressing languages ​​and separating children from their families.

In no uncertain terms, the pope said, “With all my heart, I am deeply grieved. I ask forgiveness.” He also appealed to society as a whole, “hoping that concrete means will be found to know and appreciate the identity and experience of indigenous peoples”. Discovering the richness of native spiritualities is a way of responding to Francis’s invitation.

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Each indigenous tribe has its own beliefs, rituals and morals. With the impetus of inter-tribal trade and alliances, a number of practices became widespread and widespread. Since the arrival of Europeans from the 15th century, it is a minority of natives who have succeeded in preserving all of their traditions. Today, aspects of this heritage are resurfacing.

It is difficult to have access to the entirety of Aboriginal spiritual traditions. Based on an oral culture, several tribes did not write down the course of the rites; ignorance of the “cogs” was a guarantee of efficiency. In this world of oral tradition, great reliance is placed on the elders as keepers of knowledge.

Originally, the Great Spirit created the earth and entrusted it to its inhabitants. This mother earth does not belong to anyone: it is lent to sustain and nourish. In this ecosystem where all life is sacred and interdependent, human beings must fit into a circle of life by placing themselves next to other creatures, and not above them.

Indigenous spiritualities are rooted in the natural world. For them, the secret of a balanced life lies in respect for the environment; this allows harmony between peoples. The many similarities between Indigenous ideals and religious morals are a common path to take to strive for reconciliation.

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Over the past year, the pope has recognized the Church’s wrongdoing and reached out. Asking for forgiveness is a necessary step, but it is not the last. The process must tend towards reconciliation. When people have been deeply hurt, it can be difficult, if not impossible at times, to achieve reconciliation. This does not prevent us from tending towards this ultimate goal.

What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Forgiveness engages and releases the depths of the human being to dissipate the bitterness and anger that poisons a life.

It is possible to have forgiven, while still holding a grudge and wishing revenge inside. Given the suffering, it is natural sometimes to live in this resentment. However, instead of nourishing it, those in search of reconciliation seek to get rid of it in order to heal and be able to find a beautiful life again.

Reconciliation is more demanding than forgiveness. While forgiveness promotes inner healing, reconciliation goes further. It translates into external behaviors of coexistence with those who have disappointed and hurt us.

Reconciliation always brings something new and unique into a life. Nothing can be as before in a human relationship marked by a break. She may turn out to be more beautiful. Certainly more mature. Because instead of idealizing human nature, we become more aware that in everyone, beasts coexist with angels. The natives might say: eagles fly the same sky as their prey.

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From forgiveness to reconciliation

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