Canada’s Faithful Rocked by Church Burnings

It was a bad story that soon got a lot worse. On May 28 this year, mass graves were found on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School, a former Catholic-run boarding school for Indigenous children. Two hundred and fifteen graves were uncovered, almost all children—some as young as three.

In the next month, more graves were found in more locations. The total? More than 1,000 and counting—all children, all Indigenous, and all on the grounds of church-run schools, the majority of them Roman Catholic. These were schools that, in some cases, had been known to mistreat students.

But few had expected this.

Understandably, anger and grief ripped through Canada, a nation already struggling through the decades to own up to what its own government dubbed the past “cultural genocide” of its native populations. Sadly, with the discovery of the graves, the word “genocide” took on a more literal meaning than perhaps first intended.

And, too, what only exacerbates the problem: The Roman Catholic church, not generally known to easily own up to its errors (hundreds of years had gone by, for instance, before it officially admitted to its unjust imprisonment of Galileo for his espousing of heliocentrism), has so far not issued an apology for what took place under its auspices. Many government officials are calling for one.

Church Burnings

If that weren’t bad enough, Canada is now in the grip of dozens of church burnings. Churches as far west as British Columbia, which borders the Pacific Ocean, and as far east as Nova Scotia, which borders the Atlantic, have been attacked.

At the time of this writing, “48 Christian churches in Canada have been vandalized, burned down or desecrated.”

The burnings occurred one after the other, sometimes within hours. In one case, “in Calgary, ten churches were vandalized all on a single day, Canada Day.” All the burnings, mostly but not exclusively, were at Roman Catholic churches. 

In response, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been investigating all the attacks, thus far labeling them only as “suspicious.” People, however, have put two and two together: These attacks are in revenge for what happened to the Indigenous children in religious schools.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t waste any time joining in with Indigenous leaders and provincial officials to condemn the crimes. “I can’t help but think,” he said, “that burning down churches is actually depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning from places where they can grieve and reflect and look for support.” 

Indigenous Churches

Trudeau makes an important point. Though the anger is understandable, fighting crime with more crime will hardly lead to the justice that the graves, in their own silent way, cry out for. What’s making matters worse is that many Indigenous Canadians are members of the very churches being attacked.

For example, for more than a hundred years, St. Ann’s Catholic Church, outside Hedley in British Columbia, was not only of historical value but also a spiritual sanctuary for many of the area’s Upper Similkameen Indian Band. By the time firefighters arrived, it “had been reduced to a pile of ash.”

Ninety-year-old church elder Carrie Allison said, “The church meant so much to all of us, especially our ancestors. … I think of all our ancestors that helped to build Saint Ann’s looking over us and watching all their hard work and the place they cherished, burn to the ground.” She further added a personal plea to the arsonist, “A lot of us suffered, but this is not how we do things, and this is not our way. It makes me so sick, sad, and I can only hope I do not know you. I feel sorry for you, and I hope you’re satisfied. When your hurt turns to rage, it is not healthy for you or your community.”

What makes her words so powerful is that, as a child, she had been a student at Kamloops.

Though one might disagree with her belief regarding her dead ancestors, Allison’s statement does demonstrate that there is another perspective to this heinous situation besides taking matters into one’s own hands.

Vengeance Is Mine

 No question, a crime like what had been perpetrated on these children can enrage anyone, Indigenous or not. And the desire for vengeance is likewise understandable, especially as most of the perpetrators escaped punishment.

But Bible prophecy is clear. Vengeance is not for us but for God to execute. Ironically, as these unfortunate church burnings show, our judgments may end up accomplishing the very opposite of what was intended—adding to life’s injustices. The good news, however, is that God will bring not only the justice that is lacking now but perfect fairness, something else that human justice often lacks.

One day, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people’” (Hebrews 10:30).

We all long for justice in a world that offers little to none. You can learn more about how God will administer justice with fairness and grace by looking at our Study Guide on “The Final Judgment.” Find peace and hope in a God who will soon right all wrongs for all humanity. 


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