Plotinus in Enneads wrote: Being born, coming into this particular body, these particular parents, and in such a place, and what we call external circumstances…form a unity and are as it were spun together.
The outward conditions of our birth into this world were thrust upon us. Many of you who read this can only be grateful for your good fortune and privilege. You were born in Canada into a good family. You were and have been healthy. You had a roof over your head, food on your table, and love and friends and family in your life. You were educated, employed, married, made more than a living, indulged in your pleasures, traveled the world, and lived in freedom and abundance. You fought in wars and also worked for peace. You built churches, started foundations, gave to charity, followed your interests, and cared for others. You made things, discovered things, and built industry and technology. You voted, created public policy, worked for the common good, and created an open and multi-cultural society built on love and respect. You have used your birthright well.
Others were born into difficult life situations – disease, war, famine, drought, terror, hunger, hate, and fear. Many of these have used their birthright also – knowing that life has to be more and should be more. They are our neighbors. They are indigenous sisters and brothers. They are immigrants many of whom risked their lives to claim for themselves and their families freedom and opportunity.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, protesting against the apartheid pass laws. The Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been an annual observance since 1966. This week the day went by with little acknowledgement.
For those of us who are white and privileged, powerful and wealthy, there continues to be a call to us to listen, to hear stories, to overcome fear and prejudice and to work with others in building a culture where all are honored and welcomed. In our neighborhood, there is great diversity. Many of the ministries in and through Deer Park help to generate a “mixing” of the people where differences are overcome and fear loses its grip. However, there remains people of color who still feel intimidated in the presence of a mostly white group of people. And white people continue to buy into the prejudices and stereotypes about those who are different.
With our society changing as new immigrants and refugees continue to come to Canada, the challenge worthy of considering during lent is to examine one’s privilege and attitudes. With the demonizing of refugees in many places around the world (Canada included) and the stoking of the flames of xenophobia by the privileged and powerful, the challenge worth considering during lent is to repent and to turn and embrace our neighbor in love and spin together again a new social reality.