Peace and Reconciliation

A North American Historical and Contemporary Response to Chinese Boarding Schools 

by Julie and Bill Clark

A full scale genocide is taking place now in Northwest China. Uyghur, Kazakh, Tibetan, and other minority families are being traumatized through the assimilationist policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  These policies include children being forcibly separated from their parents and put in boarding school where they are systematically stripped of their language, culture, and religion. There are estimates of 900,000 children in these schools with a similar number of children in Tibetan regions. However, before we spend the effort to understand the situation in China, it is vital for us, as people of good will in the US and Canada, to examine our own history with Native American boarding schools. 

On May 11, 2022 the US Department of the Interior issued a 106 page comprehensive report on the boarding school era. The era began in 1819 and continued until 1969. The US Federal government was responsible for 408 schools scattered over 37 states. Roughly half of these schools were run by Christian denominations. All the schools had a clear mandate of suppressing the language, culture, and indigenous religion of its students. There are both marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 of these schools. The oral histories of living survivors of these schools are vital for understanding the grief of the children and their families. In this short oral history video, it is possible to see the heartache in the story of Andy Windyboy, a Chipawwa Cree American and a boarding school survivor : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDshQTBh5d4

The Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, herself an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico,  goes on to say, “The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable. We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.” https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/interior-department-releases-indian-boarding-school-report

It is hard to overestimate the power of a US Cabinet official, who is herself Native American, to speak in such clear language acknowledging the genocidal policy of previous administrations. Of note is that 75% of the Canadian schools were run by the Catholic church and 50% of the American schools were run by Catholic and Protestant groups. The church was deeply complicit in an institution that targeted the most vulnerable members of their Native American neighbors, the children. 

The Chinese government spokespersons are already throwing the facts of the historic Native American genocide in our faces, saying we have no moral high ground to criticize their policies towards their indigenous peoples. In this recent China Daily piece the Chinese government spokesperson admonishes the US to heal the trauma caused by the Native American boarding schools: China urges US to adopt serious measures to truly help ethnic minorities get over trauma – People’s Daily Online. Our soul work, as Americans and Canadians, is to first acknowledge our history unflinchingly, and then ask for the Creator’s forgiveness and mercy on us. 

When we acknowledge that we are not innocent then we can advocate with integrity for the children and their families currently suffering under these genocidal policies in China. Survivors of the North American boarding schools say, “the first step of healing is acknowledgement”. Let’s make that healing start together. Below is a prayer of lament we have written to help us get started:

Lament for the Native American Boarding Schools

Creator have mercy on us and hear our prayers

As we become more aware of the sins of our ancestors

Towards the Native Americans of this nation

Help us to acknowledge the harm we have done

Help us to not delay any longer the healing

Native Americans and our nation needs

Creator hear our prayers and have mercy on us

For the harm we have done

For the trauma we have caused to many generations

By forcing Native American children into boarding schools

By trying to erase their language, culture, and religion

We acknowledge and repent of these great wrongs

Forgive us in your great mercy

For snatching children away from their mothers and fathers

From their grandparents and extended families 

From their community and their customs, religion and language

We confess our nation has sinned against Your children

For the physical, sexual, emotional abuse these children endured

For the sickness and deaths that occured

For the generational trauma that continues to this day

Forgive us

Many of these abuses were done in the name of Christ by the church.

We confess we have sinned against these children and families

Using your name

We ask for forgiveness for thinking our English language was better

For thinking our customs and culture was better

For the arrogance we displayed 

For the great harm we have done

We ask for forgiveness

We ask for healing for all those harmed by this practice

Amen

Categories: children, Faith, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Years In

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Two years in

Not normal now 

never will be

Never was

We can’t go back 

Normal was never 

Ever

Normal

For everyone

All we have is

Now

Today

What will we do

With it?

We can’t get our

Dead back

Whether

From disease or

Gun shots

So we must

Grieve and lament

Mental health?

Anyone not 

Been depressed or anxious

Lately?

So we must

Seek peace and community

Two years in

And a million miles away

From what any of us would 

Choose for ourselves, 

Our children

And grandchildren

What choices do we have?

We can choose

Love, kindness, forgiveness 

We can choose a path

Of generosity and peace

We can turn our weapons into

Tools for living, farming, building and

caring for 

One another

It’s time for a new pledge

Not to a flag

But to our Creator

To our common humanity

To the planet we share

A pledge to share our resources

To help those less fortunate 

To make amends

For our wrongs

No more excuses

No more denial

To Restore the earth

To take care of this

Precious planet

We call home

To be makers of peace

Not war

Categories: children, Faith, grief and death, lament, Life, Love, pandemic, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

This War

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Mother’s in labor

Birthing their babies

In the subway stations

Away from the bombs

Exploding above ground

Bombs hitting

Maternity hospitals

Children’s hospitals

The elderly making their way

Across the rubble

Leaning on their canes

The tear streaked cheeks

Of children saying goodbye

To their fathers

Through the train windows

These images

We are seeing

Broken hearts, broken lives

Anger at this waste

Of precious lives

We are angry

I am angry

Trying not to hate

Hate will do no good

For me or those I love

For this world

Already steeped in it

Why this war, this way?

How does this one leader

Live with himself?

Is this how he wants

To be remembered?

The cruelest of tyrants

Inflicting his insanity

On the vulnerable?

Is there a shred 

Of the soul left to appeal to?

To lament and pray for?

He is not the only tyrant

Still alive today

Perhaps, it’s not too late

To hope

To pray

Categories: grief and death, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Flag

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For all those

Waving a Jesus flag

Big shoes to fill

Big steps to follow

Better get started

Developing love

Self-sacrificing love

Takes a lifetime

Posers will be revealed

Examine our hearts

Whose path am I on?

No idols here

No judgements either

Fruit will reveal

Better than a flag

Who I serve

Who I truly love

© 2021 Julie Clark

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Categories: Faith, God, Love, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

A Blessing for those Waiting for Justice and Deliverance

(for those imprisoned in NW China)

In this waiting

Which feels so long, too long

When despair nags at our heels

Bless us with hope, 

Bless us with prayers to pray

With names of precious people we know

And do not know

Names and faces of captives and prisoners

We can hold before you

And honor them and honor you, their creator

Bless the space, the time

Between now and their deliverance

May they know your presence,

Your love, your goodness

May they know you hear

The cry of the afflicted

Even if the cry comes 

Silently from their hearts

Bless them with 

Lifting the heavy burden

With healing their 

Broken bodies

Their broken hearts

Lift their heads

Lift their hearts

To hope, to wait, to know

You are coming

and have not

forgotten them

Categories: borderlands, Faith, God, Hope, lament, pain, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do the Hard Work

Do the hard work

Take the time to listen

To another

With a different voice

A different belief

A different color of skin

A different culture

A different story

Take the time to learn

Find your new teachers

You won’t be disappointed

You will be enlarged

You will expand

You will grow

You will receive

A true gift

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: borderlands, growth, Hospitality, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Lectio Divina Poem

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Lectio Divina Poem on

Mark 7:24….

Jesus on the move

One place to another

Sent to the lost children 

Of Israel, yet…

Why is he here

Where the Gentiles live?

Like a magnet pulls

He draws the hungry,

The thirsty, the sick

The poor, the desperate

The greater the need

The louder they call

His meal disrupted

A noisy, needy

Foreign woman

With a child

He heard her cry

And turned his attention

Questions and answers

“Even the dogs eat 

The children’s scraps”

For this answer

She is rewarded

Her child is healed

Her faith commended

Do we see these

Women? mothers?

These men, fathers?

They will do anything

To save their child

Do we hear them?

Or do we turn away

From the disruption

And finish our hearty meals?

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Autumn Poems, borderlands, children, Dogs, Faith, God, lament, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Questions I Have

What is this division you bring?

What about peace on earth, goodwill towards all?

Is it about our choice?

To love and serve

Or horde and kill?

Do you come to us at our borders in T-shirts and flip flops

Or camped out in our city parks?

One more opportunity to choose

As you ask, “Who will you serve?

Me or mammon?”

Ok, I choose you.

Now I have enemies.

What did you say about enemies?

I have to love them too?

Now that is hard to do.

Oh, you did that.

I see.  Is that how this works?

Love changes everything.

Love is the force that brings peace

Far and near and finally

Everywhere.

How long?

“Until all is changed and all submit

To love

Singing praises!”

Your ways are better

Your ways are higher

Than ours.

What is impossible for humans

Is possible for you.

Now we must 

Get up on the highway

Of your ways

Watch and see

What you can do with love-

The strongest force there is

Moving mountains and

Raising valleys.

May we make the choice

To love

Rather than continue

This madness.

© 2019 Julie Clark

Categories: Faith, God, Life, Love, mountains, Paths, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ramadan, The Perfect Time to Meet Your Muslim Neighbors

We are in the midst of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. It is the 9th month in the Muslim Lunar calendar. This is when all able-bodied Muslims will fast from food, drink and other physical needs from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of prayer and purification to become closer to God. The Arabic word for God is Allah. Ramadan marks when the first chapters of the Quran were given to the Prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan is the 4th of 5 Pillars of Islam.  These Pillars define what it means to be a Muslim. Here is a list of the 5 Pillars:

  1. Shahada: faith in the Islam religion,
  2. Salat: pray five times per day facing the direction of Mecca,
  3. Zakat: give support to the needy,
  4. Sawm: fast during Ramadan, and
  5. Hajj: make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during one’s lifetime.

The season of Ramadan is a season of joy and celebration.  It is also a season of generosity and kindness. Although the fasting can be difficult the month is punctuated with celebratory meals after the sun goes down. These are called iftars. They are often celebrated together with families and friends, as well as community events. This is a great opportunity to join an iftar and meet your neighbors.  My husband and I have several days marked on our calendars to join an iftar. Some of these are interfaith events, hosted by a community of Muslims. Some churches are also getting involved and hosting iftars for their Muslim friends and neighbors. This can be a time to build friendships and understanding. Why not check with your local mosque and see if there are any such gatherings that you could join?  Or ask a Muslim friend, co-worker or neighbor if you could join them for an iftar? Be prepared for some delicious food and warm hospitality. You may be eating and staying up later than what is normal for you, but the benefits of making or strengthening existing friendships is worth being a little sleepy the next day.

I have heard stories from some of my immigrant friends who grew up in the middle east how Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors would make food for each other during their holidays. This would be a custom worth reviving in our multi-faith and diverse communities.  Maybe you will be inspired to host an iftar for your friends and neighbors. Just make sure you use halal meat or make a vegetarian meal. Costco carries halal meat as well as neighborhood halal stores. I have 2 in my neighborhood. This is one way to build love and peace in our world so desperately needing it.  One step at a time, right where we live.

 

Categories: Faith, God, Hospitality, Love, Peace and Reconciliation, Prayer, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Honor of Black History Month – A Poem and a Lament of White Privilege

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I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

I have decided to open my eyes wide

  To notice the turning of the tide

  To pay attention to those in pain

  And stand with them side by side

I have decided to open my ears

  To no longer be controlled by my fears

  To grow and to learn something new

  Though I am late and full of years

 

I have decided to take the risk of offending you

  To gently ask that you join me too

  To wake up and make a move

  Towards what we know is true

There is work to do and it’s not too late

  We are needed to advocate

  (Though we are white and somewhat fragile)

  To move a mountain of ignorance and hate

Our first work is to lament

  Centuries of damage, discord and blood spent

  There is far too much history

  To rush in like a savior sent

 

Oh God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

 

We have enjoyed our privilege and not listened to the cries of the oppressed

Instead we listened to voices minimizing or denying this oppression

 

We have turned our backs on their suffering, segregating ourselves

In neighborhoods and schools

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

We have not full acknowledged our history

Of white supremacy, injustice, violence, genocide and slavery

 

We have hid behind our shame and fear instead

 

We have not listened to voices of our brothers and sisters of color

Asking us to take another look at our history.

 

For this we ask forgiveness

 

Help us to grieve and to mourn the past and the present racial injustice

Help us to open our ears, our eyes, and especially our hearts

Soften our hearts where they have grown indifferent and cold

 

O God have mercy on us and forgive us

 

Help us turn from the injustice

That is still systemic in our nation

Help us to understand what needs to be done

To undo and untangle racial injustice from our systems of

Justice, Education, Housing, Medicine, and Employment

 

For this we ask for your help and strength

O God have mercy on us and hear our prayers

Amen

 

   

  

 

Categories: Black History Month, God, lament, Lent, Peace and Reconciliation, Poetry, Prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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