Monday, December 06, 2004

Montreal Massacre Remembered

"It must be admitted therefore that if the gospel of peace is no longer convincing on the lips of Christians, it may well be because they have ceased to give a living example of peace, unity and love. True, we have to understand that the Church was never intended to be absolutely perfect on earth, and she is a Church of sinners, laden with imperfection. Christian peace and Christian charity are based indeed on this need to ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ to accept the infirmities that plague one’s own life and the lives of others. Our unity is a struggle with disunity and our peace exists in the midst of conflict."

From Peace in the Post-Christian Era, edited with an Introduction by Patricia A. Burton, Foreword by Jim Forest (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004), P 129

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. I remember the day vividly. I was studying music at Humber College and came home late and the terrible news was all over the TV. I felt sick inside as they read the names and ages of the women who were not much older than I was.

For many, it was easy to dismiss this tragedy as the evil actions of one deranged man. In fact, I remember many Christians at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on the campus of Wilfrid Laurier University tell me that they saw no reason to remember this "one isolated event." And when I was in seminary some of my clasmates complained that were spending too much time reflecting on the violence of December 6 which got in the way of the festival of St. Nicholas (interesting perspective, coming from Lutherans). To me this sounded like mysogony veiled in religious garments. This is a terrible witness to the world. Just like Thomas Merton warned us in the quote above. I think this sort of religious game playing is what the prophet Amos condemned:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies, says the Lord. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

I wonder if this is all by way of relieving ourselves of any culpability in the violence of the world. Yes, one man alone walked into Montreal's l'École Polytechnique and shot 14 women simply because they were woman. But human beings do not act in isolation. We are conditioned by that which is around us. I don't mean to say that we are all evil Marc Lapines, but I wonder if many of us share the same violent impulses, but simply do not act upon them. And that violence reveals itself in other ways.

I have two young girls at home (10 months and 3 years), and I have to admit, since their births the issue of violence against women have been pressing on my mind. Would they be honoured for their gifts or would they fall into a prescribed gender roles? Would they be free to choose any vocation to which they are called or would they be limited because they are female? If they found themselves in abusive relationships, would they have the strength and courage to escape?

So today, I see an appropriate way of remembering these woman is to commit one's self to peace and reconciliation - doing the kingdom's work, knowing there will be victories and defeats along the way, learning forgiveness for our enemies and love for those who hurt us. But also, remembering that Jesus has already defeated the forces of sin and death and put us on the path that leads to new and everlasting life.

Child of glory, Child of Mary,
born in the stable, King of all,
you came to our wasteland, in our place suffered.
By choosing to be born as a child
you teach us to reverance every human life.
May we never despise, degrade, or destroy it.
Rather, help us sustain and preserve it. Amen

(A Holy Island Prayer Book, p. 53)


Saheli said...

What an incredibly powerful blog post. I had never heard of this massacre, and I thank you for informing me.

Streak said...

I agree. Great post. I don't have kids, but recently been reminded of this issue of violence against women. Someone in my circle of life has been a spouse abuser--for how long we really don't know.

This reminds me also of the story on NPR last week about the Bhopal disaster. Illiterate women walked 450 miles to protest what happened to them and their families.

Anyway, I am a bit scattered this morning. Thanks for the post and for your comments on my blog.