Walking together in dialogue

After the discovery of the remains of 215 children in a boarding school in Canada, the author reflects on what we can learn from the sad episode, to move away from the "colonizing model, also from ideological colonizations".

July 5, 2021-Reading time: 2 minutes

During the Angelus on June 6, the Pope mentioned the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children, pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential SchoolThe news, which traumatized the Canadian people and was described as "shocking" by the Pope, occurred about two weeks earlier. The Kamloops Indian Boarding School - active from the end of the 19th century until 1969 - was located in British Columbia and became the largest boarding school in Canada. It was part of a school system that sought to assimilate the natives into Canadian culture. The children were separated from their families and transferred to these schools where they were forbidden to speak the language of origin, often abused, mistreated, to the point that many of them paid with their lives for their difference with the culture of the colonizers. The Canadian bishops immediately expressed their sorrow and expressed their willingness to collaborate in the investigation to clarify the situation without any restrictions.

This boarding school was one of 139 institutions working on behalf of the Canadian government to integrate indigenous communities into society. An estimated 150,000 children from colonized families passed through those residences: although the figure could be higher, between 3,200 and 5,000 indigenous children died there, most of them of tuberculosis. Francis said that the sad discovery should help us to increase our awareness of the pain and suffering of the past and, in particular, to move away from the colonizing model (also ideological colonizations). Beyond economic, military and racial interests, colonialism implies the conviction that it is legitimate for a "superior" civilization to impose itself on an "inferior" one, with the aggravating circumstance of justifying the need for forced conversions.

The Pope emphasized how essential it is today to "to walk together in dialogue and mutual respect and in the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all people.". And this applies not only to Canada.

The authorMauro Leonardi

Priest and writer.

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