Christchurch

The service was to be about Palestine this past Sunday. I thought I had a contribution to make to our ongoing understanding of a puzzling and reprehensible situation. As in why does a nation of people who have been on the receiving end of some of the worst brutality known to humanity treat Palestinians as lesser persons. The situation has been described as apartheid, which I believe is accurate, and as needing a solution that all of Abraham’s children, Jew, Muslim and Christian, will have to contribute all their imagination and compassion to.

I thought of saving it for later so I could lift up the 1.5 million students who shamed the rest of us by going on strike and saying that addressing climate change is more important than being in school.

Christchurch overcame both of these important topics. Here is some of what I had to say.

An acquaintance posted this [excerpted] on Friday

Thank you for the checking in and standing in solidarity.

The truth is this: my brother and father go to mosque every Friday to pray. And every Friday, around noon, I have a pit in my stomach, an anxiousness that I cannot name. I hold my breathe even as I go about my day. It would be a lie to say that it started with the Montreal shootings, but it has definitely heightened since then. … every time I think of all the Muslims coming together in silence and meditation, I also think about how easy it would be to kill us all. I think about how easy it would be to pick us off.

I know many of you understand this fear, despite not being Muslim. I know many of you have experienced it in different spaces. But for how many of you is it constant and unending? How many of you find yourselves holding your breath at every mass shooting hoping that it is not one of us and that the victims are not us either? How can you find joy in your faith when your faith is constantly demonized?

I have no answers, just sorrow and worry and fear.

I am tired. Like deep, bone-weary tired. Like I do not want to respond anymore tired. Like your thoughts and prayers and solidarity can’t stop this tired. Like the systemic change needed to shift the discourse is too much/never going to happen tired. Like it is your turn, please let me grieve tired.

It’s our turn. When white supremacists are abusive to the followers of Mohammed, when they murder them, we suffer. A response is required of us when Antisemitism and Islamophobia walk our streets. And the homes and villages of others.

This is the season of Lent, the season of giving up something to make room for something else—like giving up complacency to make room for anger, anger that moves us to act. When something terrible happens we offer our thoughts and prayers, and sometimes slide back into a complacency and feel less guilt than we might at sneaking a piece of chocolate during Lent.

Take a moment to sit in silence. Not out of respect for the dead, but to imagine what it is like to be mourning at the same time as being a target of hatred. Then act beyond any sense of helplessness you feel. It may be nothing more than talking with someone who dresses differently. You might help a mother with a hijab take her stroller down the steps in a TTC station. You may make a barrier between someone spewing hate in public and the people he or she seeks to victimise.

Acknowledge that right-wing politicians give tacit permission to white supremacists by their silence. Call out, expose our politicians who garner support and exploit fear and anger by refusing to denounce those in their midst who demonise refugees and immigrants. Like the Premier, like the leader of the Conservative Party. And any Liberals and NDP and Greens who may be just a little better at keeping a veneer of civility. Then rush to cover it up or kick out those who transgress. They should never have been vetted in the first place.

Boycott the publications, and their advertisers, when they publish news stories that promote hatred.

Be silenced. Then get angry. Then prove this is not who we are.

Abraham's Children: Isaac and Ishmael in Palestine

This Sunday we’re stepping into the fraught conversation about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The premise is that during Lent Christians are encouraged to give something up, in order to make room for something that enriches a life of faith. Without imposing this on others, our reflection will be on the difficulty of making room for things that benefit other people. How we resist change that might threaten our personal peace.

It may be helpful to read some of what the United Church of Canada has made clear in recent years, regarding settlements and occupation and initiatives taken.

Toronto Budget: the Results

Very little was done to make a difference for the people of Toronto. All of them. City Council continued to mortgage the future of the city by not spending any serious money on infrastructure. Except the Gardiner Expressway, to which they devoted over 50% of the road repair budget to a concrete ribbon used by 3% of the commuters in the city. Despite simple, clear and responsible motions by various councillors, little was spent to make a difference in the lives of our marginalised neighbours. And it will be difficult for the 15 Councillors and the Mayor, who pledged to fully fund the Poverty-reduction strategy without a serious commitment to raise and spend monies in the budgets for the remainder of their term.

Tomorrow is City Budget Day

And even the physicians believe we can do better. If you agree with what they wrote, contact your Councillor before tomorrow’s vote.

An excerpt:

We can choose now to change the status quo in 2019. Tomorrow, the Mayor and City Council will be voting on this year’s budget, including revenue sources. They can make the decision now to generate dedicated funding so that every resident of our City has a safe, warm, affordable, and stable place to sleep.  

We urge every Toronto resident to contact the Mayor and your City Councillor today to tell them to support new revenue tools in the 2019 budget for shelter, housing supports, eviction prevention, and deeply affordable housing. It's time to act with the powers that are already available to us to address this crisis of homelessness. We have options. Let's use them.