Well, here we are, the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is about so much more than waiting for a child to be born. It is about a time that is pregnant with possibility. It’s about imagining a world where all God’s people are safe, secure, fed, housed, educated, loved. It’s easy to see apocalyptic signs in the events of this past week, let alone the past few weeks. Reading the newspaper is not for the faint of heart. But as we wait for the birth of the one we know as the Prince of Peace, the one who will bring God near again, we are called to look not for the signs of cataclysm, but for the signs of hope in a broken world.
And so in my message at church this morning, I shared a tiny ray of hope that I found in the Globe & Mail on Thursday in amongst the news of death and destruction. It consisted of 3 tiny paragraphs with the title “Aboriginal Students Protest Shoddy School”. The article was about a rally at Queen’s Park on November 26th attended by hundreds of our own local schoolchildren supporting the children of Attawapiskat, Ontario. Attawapiskat is a fly-in community on the west coast of James Bay, and part of the Nishnawbe-Aski Cree Nation. Since 2000, the elementary schoolchildren there have been learning in portables. Their original school was finally closed when they realized that children were becoming sick from a massive diesel spill underneath the school in 1979.
Students are now waiting for the $30 million that’s needed to build a new school and, meanwhile, learn in classrooms that are cold, have cracked walls and doors that don’t shut properly due to the extreme cold temperatures and snow, and are prone to infestations of vermin. And the hope? Because of former Lieutenant-Governor James Bartleman’s literacy efforts in remote Ontario aboriginal communities, the students of Attawap have been partnering with southern Ontario schoolchildren over the Internet. These local schoolchildren have taken up the cause of their fellow students who normally would never have hoped to have a voice at Queen’s Park or in the Globe & Mail. Just maybe these children will lead the ones in power, lead all of us, to work for justice for the Attawap schoolchildren. – L. Mackenzie