An Agassiz church group is hosting a six-month book study on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with the hopes of educating and sparking debate on the past, present and future of Aboriginal culture.
Book-study organizer Monica Gibson-Pugsley of All Saints Parish has always had an interest in “the plight” of Aboriginal people, she said, stemming back from the 1970s when she lived in England.
Upon moving to Abbotsford, where she worked as a secretary at an Anglican church, she always wondered what she could do to help improve the rights and freedoms of Aboriginals, both locally and nationally.
And when she read that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action report included how churches can get involved, it just made sense that she do her part.
Call to action item 48 directs churches to formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms and standards of the declaration by respecting and supporting Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practice, develop and teach their own spiritual and religious traditions, customs, and ceremonies.
It also calls for churches to engage in ongoing and public dialogue to support the declaration.
Starting Sept. 21, Pugsley and the group will meet the first and third Wednesday of each month to discuss a variety of Aboriginal-related social issues, using the commission’s report and the book Wrong to Rights as guides to debate.
The latter, published by the Mennonite Church of Canada, includes excerpts from a variety of Indigenous people, bible verses and discussion questions.
Topics up for debate and discussion include child protection laws, infusing Indigenous laws in Canadian law, and if artifacts being returned will initiate full reconciliation.
Pugsley will chat the study up as a success as long as it initiates discussion and educates those who attend.
“What I can do to help is educate,” she explained, adding more people need to be aware of the declaration and call to action.
“A lot of bias and prejudice is still out there,” she continued.
Co-sponsored by the parish and the Agassiz-Harrison Ministerial Association, anyone interested can join in on the study which takes place out of All Saints Anglican Church, at 6904 Lougheed Hwy.
The next meeting happens Oct. 5.
The study is free, however participants need to purchase the book, along with the pocket-sized declaration and the call to action report for $20.
To register, contact Pugsley at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone the church at 604-796-3553.