By the Rev. Wally Hong, minister at Drummond Hill Presbyterian Church in Niagara Falls, Ont.

I was not born on the lands now called Canada. I came here as a teenager. Being neither Indigenous nor of European descent, I often wondered if I had a role to play in healing and reconciliation. It is easy enough to make an argument that I have no role in this work as an outsider to the historic colonization process. Me, and those like me who immigrated to Canada more recently, had no part in the establishment and enactment of sinful Canadian policies that manifested in the Indian Residential School System, and other discriminatory policies directed at Indigenous peoples. We were not on the receiving end of humiliating and spirit-destroying measures. We were not here early enough to vote for politicians who authored those laws, nor to work in the institutions that were targeted by these harmful laws. It would be simpler and easier for me and those like me who came late to this country to get engaged as outsiders who want to make things right. In doing so, I could feel good about the good I am doing in the world.

But! This is a huge “but.” Let me begin this with who I am today.

In spite of facing prejudices and discrimination of all kinds since my arrival here, I carry my Canadian passport with a deep sense of pride and gladness. Like many model minorities, I have worked hard to make Canada my home. This is why I feel hurt when someone asks me where my real home is after I tell them that my home is here. Canada is not perfect, but it is now my home. I do my best to build up Canada so that it will be just and peaceful, where everyone can flourish. I do so with a Christian conviction that God’s purpose led me here, that I am to share God’s gift with others generously, including the task of building up Canadian churches and all institutions, and that I am given this blessing of building up my neighbours near and far with Christ’s love.

I am hyper-aware of the challenges newcomers face, including having busy lives trying to eke out a living and build a better future for those who come after us.

Living as immigrant Christians who are racial minorities is very difficult at the best of times. There is hardly any time left over after working long hours and attending churches to pay attention to matters like healing and reconciliation.

The truth is, however, that I, as a newcomer, enjoy the riches of this country, be it cultural, social, economic, political and spiritual.

I have inherited, and become part of, the systems and structures that French, English, Scottish, Irish, German, Scandinavian and many other Europeans built by dominating and unleashing many forms of violence on Indigenous peoples. The systems that afford me a comfortable life are the very systems that have been built at the expense of the First peoples. We participate in the perpetuation or maintenance of those laws, institutions and systems through our votes, taxes and demands. For this reason, those of us who have arrived here later have as much obligation to participate fully and engage meaningfully in the process of healing and reconciliation.

It is important for me and those who have come later to realize that we are not this third impassioned and neutral party, but active participants who are shaping the Canadian future. That we eagerly obtain Canadian citizenship and enjoy all its benefits means that we have chosen to accept the responsibility of building Canada up. Doing so conscientiously involves understanding and working to heal Canada’s past as part of writing Canada’s present and future. If we, the newer settlers, choose not to learn about, and do not take up the dark Canadian past as our own, we will never be able to build a just Canada (or work to usher in God’s reign as God’s servants) because we are choosing to be wilfully blind to the unjust systems from which we are profiting. As newer Christian settlers, not seeing the sin that gave rise to the very systems that benefit us is to betray our core faith and commitment to love God and our neighbours. If we as Christian newcomers cry to God only about injustices we suffer, we fail in loving those who have been suffering since the arrival of the European settlers.

For Christians, the Lord’s Table is the symbolic place of healing and reconciliation. We believe that everyone is invited to this table without condition. For Christian Canadians, the lands now called Canada is this symbolic table. Sadly, those who were here first have been pushed out from their seats at unimaginable costs of pain and suffering. Participating in healing and reconciliation is to work together to restore First peoples’ place at the table fully. We are grateful for their gracious return as they search for healing. Without them, the table fails to be a place of healing and reconciliation. Those who have perpetrated sinful actions are also invited to the Lord’s Table. They, too, may find healing at the Lord’s Table as they come in repentance. The new settlers who have arrived recently bring the unique understanding of pains of exclusion, as well as repentance for being on the side of principalities and powers excluding the weak and the powerless. This dual experience of recent settlers of the lands now called Canada can be their contribution to furthering healing and reconciliation in Canada.