Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 2, 2009
All bear responsibility for residential schools
Conference heard how Korean's loss of culture was similar to aboriginals' being denied their spirituality
Rev. Cheol Soon Park
BY GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – Reconciliation between First Nations people and other Canadians over Indian residential schools will take generations, says the moderator of the Presbyterian Church.
“The solution to this is not going to happen in one generation or two. It is going to be with us for a long time,” the Rev. Cheol Soon Park told a conference on Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools Jan. 22.
“But we are not going to back off. We are not going to give up. We are going to pursue (reconciliation).”
The Korean-born moderator was one of several speakers at a two-day conference put on for students and the public by The King’s University College.
DARKEST, SADDEST CHAPTER
He called residential schools “the darkest, the saddest chapter of Canadian history.”
Park said the billions of dollars in compensation paid out to survivors of the schools would not bring reconciliation.
“How can this money compensate for the wounds, the destruction we have caused in the souls of our brothers and sisters?”
Forgiveness will occur “where there is heartfelt repentance,” he said. That repentance includes a full acknowledgement of what took place in the schools.
“Peace will take place only when we are willing to give in, give up and sacrifice.”
Park likened the devastation of the residential schools to the stripping of the national culture in his Korean homeland under Japanese occupation in the last century.
After the Japanese conquered Korea 100 years ago, they controlled everything, introduced Japanese thought and religion, and gave the people Japanese names, he said. “They took our language away and they took the Korean-ness out of our soul.”
Korean men were recruited into the army and women were recruited to work in factories. Later, those women learned they were to be “sex slaves” for the army, he said.
After the Second World War, the Japanese denied any of this happened, he said. When documents were released showing the subjugation of the women, the Japanese said they volunteered for the role.
When more evidence came out about the extent of the cultural suppression, the Japanese government said that it had nothing to do with the central government, but it was only officials in Korea acting on their own.
“There was a long period of denial, frustration,” he said. Even today, the official denial continues.
Park said it is not a matter of the failures of some individuals. The suppression of a culture is an attack on human dignity.
He noted that he came to Canada 26 years ago and people now tell him he had nothing to do with the residential schools. Likewise, students in the audience were not even born when the schools were operating.
“You may ask, ‘What do I have to do with this situation? My parents’ generation failed and should be held responsible for this.’”
But he maintained all are involved in reconciliation.
“Our gathering is to learn the lesson of how we failed as brothers and sisters, how we have betrayed their trust, and how we can build a better future.”
Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, chair of the group of 50 Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders involved in residential schools, also addressed the gathering.
Pettipas asked how churches could be involved in running residential schools when that goes against their own teaching.
CULTURE VS FAITH
“I think the answer is that we are touched more by our own culture than by our faith,” he said.
Christians proclaim to receive new life and to become members of Jesus Christ through Baptism but it does not seep deeply enough into us, Pettipas said. The main influence on us is still our nation and our culture.
Letter to the Editor - 02/23/09