Rex Murphy: Desecration of 48 churches is a national tragedy, yet government seems to care little about Christians
Considering the scale of these events, the reaction has been utterly underwhelming
Author of the article: Rex Murphy
Publishing date: Jul 21, 2021
It’s obviously something of a politico-religious week, as the federal government is hosting two summits, on two consecutive days this week, on combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Needless to say, the prime minister will be present at both. I don’t suppose anyone will draw objections to such meetings, or their intention of removing, or at least reducing, discrimination against either of these two religions.
What I find rather inexplicable is that while our federal government is rightly attending to acts of discrimination targeting Jewish and Muslim worshippers, there is, as far as can be determined, no scheduled summit dealing with the current wave of destructive hostility directed at Christian worshippers.
This is something rather more than puzzling given that in a very concentrated period of about two weeks, Canada has seen a total of 48 incidents perpetrated against Christian churches, ranging from vandalism (paint on church doors, ugly graffiti) to their total destruction by fire. The website True North has put up a map showing the details of each incident. The map is useful, in my judgment, as it offers a concise summary of each incident.
Both the burnings and acts of vandalism have come on the heels of disturbing revelations about residential school grave sites, but it is important to stress that no swift judgments or automatic conclusions as to who is responsible should be made.
Many of the churches that have been targeted are situated on Native reserves, though it must be highlighted that Indigenous leaders have expressed both anger and dismay over these attacks. Some of the destroyed churches had served their First Nations communities for very long periods.
On the other hand, at least two, a Polish Roman Catholic church in Saskatoon, and the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, B.C., had no Aboriginal associations whatsoever.
The total destruction of the Coptic church calls for closer scrutiny. It was built by refugees who fled religious persecution in their home countries, principally Egypt. To flee from persecution only to have your place of worship destroyed in your country of refuge must be very hard to bear.
A statement issued by the church after the fire more than suggests how deeply this congregation registered the event: “Our church was more than a building. It brought together a diverse congregation of Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Iraqi and Lebanese Orthodox believers. The church was a haven where we practised our ancient holy rites that have been preserved over centuries from our forefathers who keep the faith defying great odds. It was a place we built community, where we shared meals, where we married our youth, christened our babies and welcomed newcomers to the faith.”
One parishioner commented: “The loss is heartbreaking, disappointing and devastating for the congregation and the community.”
After hearing such testimony, how can anyone continue to argue that “they’re just buildings,” or maintain the vile rallying cry of “burn it all down”?
When there are nearly 50 Christian churches from coast to coast suffering everything from vandalism to full destruction, it is a huge national event that calls for extraordinary responses from both government and police forces. This is nothing less than a sustained, violent and hateful rampage targeting a particular faith. It is a bigotry of fire, not words.
With no aspersions whatsoever on the two faith summits dealing with prejudice against the Jewish and Muslim faiths, I suggest there is justification for a third one on the current wave of attacks against Christian churches, and how to deal with the affronts to their parishioners.
Why the Canadian Left is burning down churches
While progressives tweeted, churches serving indigenous communities burned
Meghan Murphy is a writer in Vancouver, BC. Her website is Feminist Current.
It’s strange that Canada, one of the most privileged countries in the world, is home to people who repeatedly insist that it is the worst. This month, in a classic move, activists commemorated Canada Day by trying to cancel it. The trigger was the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on sites that had been church-run residential schools for indigenous children, which are, to be fair, a horrifying stain on Canada’s history.
“We’re collectively mourning right now and in grief, and a lot of old wounds have been dug up and reopened because of this,” said David Pratt, of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. In response, the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria, cancelled its celebrations, encouraging people to consider “what it means to be Canadian in light of recent events”.
But it seems the activists calling to cancel Canada were not interested in quiet reflection. A number of churches across the nation were vandalised and burned to the ground, in protest of the past. One wooden church named St. Ann’s near Hedley, British Columbia — where members of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band had been gathering for over a century — was reduced to ash. Not far away, The Sacred Heart — which has served the Penticon Indian Band since 1911 — was also razed.
Churches have been burned in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Almost all were on indigenous land, destroyed, apparently, in response to deaths of the children who were removed from their families sent to the schools in a policy of forced assimilation. But what do these acts really accomplish?
It is true that Canada’s residential schools existed to destroy indigenous cultures and languages and were notorious for neglect and abuse. By the Seventies, most of these schools were run by the state. Nevertheless, the latest scandal has been widely misunderstood.
The “unmarked graves” that precipitated the cancellation of Canada Day and the church burnings were not the graves of murder victims — a fact many activists appear to misunderstand. Analysis of the remains shows that the children mostly died from the same causes as non-indigenous children at the time — things like influenza and tuberculosis.
Nor were the graves kept secret. A landmark 2015 report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had an entire volume entitled “Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials”. The report describes how “the practice throughout the system’s history was to keep burial costs low, and to oppose sending the bodies of students who died at schools back to their home communities,” hence why there were cemeteries on the school grounds. Very few articles about the report pointed out these facts (besides Brian Lilley’s in the Toronto Sun.)
Moreover, the graves were not intentionally unmarked; rather, the markers decayed over the years and were simply not maintained. The “discovery” of these unmarked graves was not a discovery, then, but something activists could have read up on years ago. It’s perfectly reasonable to be upset and disgusted by these facts. But it is important to get the facts right.
There’s always a temptation, when you’re an activist, to peddle the narrative that presents your adversary in the worst possible light (and you — the valiant saviour — in the best). In Canada, the Left gives into this temptation far too frequently — and I say this as someone who was a devout leftist for most of my life. Few spoke out against the arson of religious buildings. Those who did included indigenous leaders, who were left dealing with the fall-out.
These church burnings are part of a recent trend on the Left to destroy symbols or statues that some feel are representative of a regressive time. Statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II were also casualties of Canada Day this year. When progressives tweet their support of extreme actions — which tend not to have any effect on them personally, or even their communities — they ignore the fact that destruction and violence do not tend to effect positive change for the communities they claim to be defending.
Who are these activists helping, when they burn down local businesses and religious buildings? These responses are too often about projecting toughness and holier-than-thou “commitment” to the cause. Often, they go too far. Last week, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Harsha Walia, resigned after responding to the church burnings by tweeting, “Burn it all down.”
Advocating for the destruction of Canadian churches is an entirely inappropriate thing for a person representing an organisation supposedly committed to protecting freedom of religion and assembly to do. But the rush of power and validation activists experience in making such extreme statements ensures many speak without consideration for facts or consequences. Walia is, alas, also a typical product of modern progressive activism, which has devalued truth, rationality, and practicality in favour of short-sighted hyperbole.
This is why activists rushed to spin the “unmarked graves” story into a shocking discovery, hidden by a media and liberal government that is always at their mercy. The result of this rhetoric was arson that devastated people whose lives most urban liberals can’t imagine. Activists put themselves centre-stage, to the detriment of communities; it’s disturbing, this knee-jerk response towards violence, destruction, and cancellation. Leftist leaders, in particular, must resist this urge, lest the entire Left burn all its bridges and go up in flames. Policy must be rooted in facts and rational thought. But perhaps that’s a little too dull for the burn-it-all-down crowd.