By Lisa Zengarini
The Canadian Church will focus its National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples this year on the theme “Healing of the Earth”, inspired by the celebration of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’”. The special day has been celebrated since 2002 on 12 December, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In a message for the occasion the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council reminds us of the strong connection between the respect of human rights of the First Nations and stewardship of our common home, calling on the faithful “to live in solidarity with all peoples and to respect, protect, defend and nurture the oneness of all of God’s Creation”.
The message emphasizes how indigenous people have a lot to teach about our relationships with the Earth, God and with one another: “As people of the Earth we share with one another, each and every day. God gathers us together in this place”, the Council writes. It then reminds us that relationship is also about healing: “God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to lead us in the way of healing and restore relationship with God, other peoples, and all creation”. “Furthermore, we are in loving relationship with all the Children of God. We are all created in His image and likeness”, the message continues.
Citing Pope Francis, the Council reiterates that “ecological conversion requires the promotion and respect of human rights – individual and collective”- and stresses that “people of faith are to advocate for peoples whose way of life depends on the land, and are to defend the rights of persons who are victims of exploitation”, as indicated in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Trc) Report on the past abuses against indigenous children in residential schools in Canada.
Finally, the message recalls the urgent need stressed by Pope Francis of coming together “as one human family” as the world continues to face “very real threats to our ecology and way of life, which has never been more apparent as we live through the present Covid-19 pandemic”.
The message concludes with a prayer to the Lord so that He may give the strength to proclaim by words and actions that the Earth is a blessing for all peoples and avoid the sins of exploitative personal power and profit.