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Survivors reflect on the Pope’s apology for abusing Aboriginal people

#Survivors #reflect #Popes #apology #abusing #Aboriginal #people

Some seemed far away, others wept or applauded: A great wave of emotion swept through the crowd in Maskwacis, western Canada, on Monday as the Pope himself asked forgiveness for the “evil” done to the indigenous people.

In one way or another, they have all been affected by decades of child abuse in Catholic Church schools, which are part of a system that aims to eradicate the Indigenous identities of tens of thousands of people.

Most had been hoping for this for a long time. “I’ve waited 50 years for this apology,” said a former student, Evelyn Korkmaz. “And today I finally heard it.”

“I’m sorry,” the 85-year-old pope told the crowd, many of whom were dressed in traditional attire. “I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil that so many Christians have committed against indigenous peoples.”

He conjured up the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” of children over the decades.

Shortly after his speech, one of the chiefs presents him with a traditional headdress – then suddenly a woman gets up to sing the Canadian anthem alone in Cree. A tear rolled down her weather-beaten face.

“Words cannot describe how important today is for the healing journey,” said Vernon Saddleback, one of the chiefs of the Maskwacis Reservation, where the Pope made his first stop on a tour of Canada dedicated to the Aborigines, Metis and Inuit was.

A long red banner had just woven its way through the crowd waiting for the Pope to arrive.

On the scarlet cloth: 4,120 children’s names written in white.

These are just a few of the thousands of children who have died after being forced to attend schools, often buried nearby in unmarked graves without their parents being informed.

Many died from diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, or from accidents, but also from abuse and neglect and poor sanitation.

The system is believed to have caused at least 6,000 deaths and traumatized several generations between the late 19th century and the 1990s.

– ‘751’ –

Irene Liening Muskowekwan, who spent eight years in boarding school and came to Maskwacis with her children from neighboring British Columbia, hoped survivors and their families would “find peace and healing.”

She vividly illustrated the intergenerational trauma that such abuse can cause.

When she started a story about her aunt who died in one of the schools when she was five or six years old, she stopped and admitted it was too painful.

But later she returned to the subject and described how her aunt was killed after being thrown down the stairs by a nun. Her name was on the red banner, she said.

Her own children, who she brought to the ceremony, had also suffered, “because of what I did to them, you know, coming out of boarding school and they felt like … like I wasn’t even a person.”

As a young child in school, she admitted she didn’t even know her own name. “I was known as number 751.”

In the end, many admitted to feeling disoriented by the emotions of the day.

Korkmaz spent four years in a boarding school.

The day was “overwhelming,” she said. “It was a very emotional day for me as a survivor. I’ve had my ups and downs.”

She added that she was “glad I lived long enough to witness his apology.”

Many of her relatives, friends, classmates and members of her community did not – they died from suicide or addiction, consequences of the abuse, she said.

Now she wants the church to grant access to school records – documents that could finally provide an official account of what happened to the children, whose fates are unknown.

“You belong here in Canada. You belong to us. This is our story. You don’t belong in Rome. They belong here,” she said.

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#Survivors #reflect #Popes #apology #abusing #Aboriginal #people

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