Tribute to Hosts of the Earth on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – Beach Metro Community News

The Danforth Islamic Center formed the Muslim-Indigenous Connection (MIC) program as part of truth and reconciliation efforts. Photo: submitted.

By IMAM IRSHAD OSMAN

September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation known as Orange Shirt Day. Although declared a statutory holiday by the federal government, this day cannot be considered another day off to enjoy a long weekend.

Orange Shirt Day carries dark memories from our past that have crept into our current realities. It is a day of reflection, a day of introspection, and a day of heartfelt confession that we have let down the owners of this Turtle Island land.

The discovery of Aboriginal children’s mass graves has made the stories we read about in books very real. We don’t need another mass grave to be dug up to recognize the trauma the Indigenous community faces every day.

It’s a generational trauma. The repercussion of systemic oppression and cultural genocide still continues as social inequalities. Data on incarceration, poverty levels, suicide rates, homelessness, educational attainment, etc., show how abandoned Indigenous communities are by the people they have welcomed with open hands on their lands.

Inequalities will take generations to correct. The state alone cannot be expected to heal the wounds. As faith-based communities, we have a moral responsibility to build an authentic alliance with Indigenous communities that is neither performative, transactional, nor self-promotional.

When over 75 Canadian Imams read a statement in the summer of 2021 following the discovery of the mass graves, I, as the Imam of the Islamic Center of Danforth, also read the statement to my congregation.

The last paragraph of this statement confronted me. “Our commitment to you as loved ones: we will stand tall and work with you to bring healing, justice and peace with truth and reconciliation.” He questioned my integrity and laid bare before me the bitter truth: “Can I really stand by that statement?”

I am a Muslim settler on Turtle Island. My duty to Indigenous communities is religiously mandated. This reminds us in our tradition of the first Muslim migrants who, fleeing oppression in Mecca, came to Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and then to Medina. The example of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace_be_upon_him) was to recognize and honor the hosts and rulers of the land wherever they went.

In fact, when the first refugees visited Abyssinia, they told the story of Jesus and Mary in the Quran as a way of honoring and accepting the Christian traditions of the reigning king. These traditions amplified my sense of guilt for not doing enough to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples and traditions of this land.

This personal reflection led me to begin my own contribution to the national truth and reconciliation effort and to begin my journey as an ally of Indigenous brethren. It gave birth to the “Muslim-Indigenous Connection” program.

As Muslims, we follow God’s prophets in terms of their actions and the model they upheld. All of the prophets from Abraham to Noah to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad have stood up against injustice and stood up for the marginalized and oppressed. They were sources of light, love and reconciliation when the world was engulfed in darkness.

The Muslim-Indigenous Connection (MIC) program is a small candle lit with the hope of achieving big results. Running in its second year, the program is training 25 young Muslims to embark on the journey of reconciliation by providing them with multiple opportunities to learn from Indigenous elders about Indigenous spirituality, values, beliefs and struggles. .

MIC participants can also visit an Indigenous reservation to internalize what they have learned. They also engage in small groups to implement micro-projects in consultation and partnership with local Indigenous organizations to bring about change in the community.

It is clear that the legacy of residential schools caused Aboriginal brothers to lose faith in faith-based institutions. Young participants in the Muslim-Indigenous Connection program attempt to rebuild this trust through genuine engagement and connection.

Because MIC believes, at its core, that building trust takes time, sometimes generations, and cannot be achieved by engaging in advocacy and relief activities only when the challenges facing the indigenous community make headlines.

Therefore, the premise of our program is “seven generation planning,” which is a sacred concept among Indigenous peoples. He urges present generations to live and work for the benefit of the seventh generation in the future. This is akin to the Islamic concept of responsibility, sustainability and stewardship.

The reconciliation work that I started last year attempts to involve all members of the Muslim community in this moral responsibility. I hope the dynamic Muslim youth will prepare the ground and inspire others to join hands.

Imam Irshad Osmon is with the Danforth Islamic Center.

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