WCR Logo


September 12, 2016

Prairie racism has again been brought into full view by the strident reactions of Saskatchewan settlers following the Aug. 9 murder of Colten Boushie, 22, a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation south of North Battleford.

Explicitly racist comments on social media reflect a situation where First Nations and settlers live side by side but do not truly know each other. Of course, that's not what they think; each "side" believes it knows the other all too well and that the other is up to no good.

Any effort to end racism must begin with the acknowledgement that racism is real and that people cannot be rationally convinced to end their racist attitudes.

A racist often sees governments that intervene by instituting education programs and human rights legislation as do-good meddlers detached from reality. Governments should legislate against discrimination and acts of racial hatred, but they have little power to end underlying racist attitudes.

It is appalling that racism exists; it is doubly appalling when it exists among Christians as it has throughout the centuries.

Jesus' ministry was in no small part aimed at breaking down racial and tribal divisions among people. He deliberately welcomed outsiders and those rejected by his society, including the Samaritans whom the Jews despised. He urged people to love their enemies, pray for those who persecute them and give to all who beg from them. It was a message of healing and unity, but also a message which confronted the image of a God who takes the side of one race or ethnic group and who hates the people we hate.

Jesus directly challenged racist idolatries, and he was crucified for his effort. St. Paul underwent history's most famous conversion by encountering Jesus and realizing that unity is built among diverse peoples through Baptism into the one Lord.

Christianity has a spotty record over the centuries. On one hand, it has spawned an ethic of mercy and of breaking down walls that divide, with Christians frequently living out that ethos in heroic ways. On the other hand, Christians have been leaders in vile persecutions, including the Crusades, the early modern wars of religion, South African apartheid, and the dispossession and marginalization of Canada's First Nations peoples.

We ought to learn from our past and promote dialogue amidst division and offer catechesis that underlines our Lord's determined efforts to bring healing and peace. We cannot sit idly by.

Racism calls the Church to bring God's love into the midst of hatred and to spur dialogue among divided peoples. Peacemaking ought to be a primary ministry of the Church, and right now that ministry is needed to start the inter-racial dialogues that will help to bring unity among the peoples of the Prairies.