The third annual Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation begins in Fort Langley on May 25. Photo courtesy of the ‘Working Toward Reconciliation’ Facebook page

Reconciliation walk builds relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples

Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation begins May 25 in Fort Langley

An opportunity to reflect on Langley’s history and the importance of building community relationships is being offered by Langley Churches for Reconciliation.

Their third annual Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation returns May 25 to 27, and will see participants walk 35 km from Fort Langley to the site of the nearest residential school, St. Mary’s, in Mission.

The event was created in response to the 94 Calls to Action listed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, said Rev. Paul Guiton, in a delegation to Township council on April 23.

“There are specific suggestions for different levels of government, as you know, but there were also some calls to action for churches and other faith groups,” he told council.

“Specifically, number 61-3, which says, ‘community controlled education and relationship building projects.’ And that is exactly what the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation is — a community controlled education and relationship building project, right here in Langley.”

The walk begins at 6 p.m. on May 25 near the Jacob Haldi Bridge in Fort Langley. Participants will walk over three days along the Trans Canada Trail, through Langley and Abbotsford, into Mission. The event will conclude on May 27 with closing ceremonies and a feast at Fraser River Heritage Park.

Along the way, there will be many opportunities for people to educate themselves about the history of residential schools and its impact Indigenous communities, Guiton said.

“The fact that settlers are prepared to make this long walk is a sign to our Indigenous sisters and brothers. A residential school survivor who walked with us last year expressed that he was deeply moved that white people were willing to do something like this,” he said.

“In fact, while we very much appreciate the support of people of Indigenous backgrounds, this call to action is primarily for settlers. Too often, we are sitting back and expecting First Nations to do the heavy lifting around reconciliation, which honestly, simply perpetuates the problem.

“Above all, the reality is that reconciliation takes place between people. It is the repairing of fractured relationships — it doesn’t happen at an institutional level. For example, many of our church denominations have given apologies many years ago, without fundamentally changing the nature of relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples — frankly, even between churches and Indigenous peoples.”

Guiton noted that some of the denominations were actively involved in the running of residential schools. He believes they have “a moral obligation to provide leadership in reconciliation initiatives.”

“Others in our group were not members of the so-called settlement churches, but recognize that at the very core of Christianity — actually at the core of every religion — is the injunction to love your neighbour as yourselves. Well, we didn’t.”

The walk is sponsored by four churches in Langley — Anglican, Christian Reformed Willoughby, Langley Mennonite Fellowship and United Churches of Langley — but people of all backgrounds are welcome to participate.

“The invitation is to everyone who wants to show that they care about their relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks in our community,” Guiton said.

For more information on the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation, email Guiton at floatingpastor@gmail.com or visit the ‘Working Toward Reconciliation’ Facebook page.

Transportation will be provided to bring people back to the start point in Fort Langley, and participants are encouraged to walk only as far as they can manage.

Pre-registration for the walk is not required.



miranda@langleytimes.com

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