When Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion; people must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” he meant hate is not an innate thing. It is earned and learned. It can also be unlearned and unlearned.
After the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association made comments on social media and responded to an article about a couple of churches burning down, Harsha Walia wrote: “Burn it all.” This comment set off a firestorm.
One of her tweets responding to the issue reads, “It’s totally ridiculous to suggest I am actively calling for arson.”
Many would agree on deadly genocidal colonialism everywhere should tumble down, but when someone says “burn it all down,” it doesn’t suggest “colonialism,” especially when one responds to a piece about churches burning down.
Walia is not anybody. She is somebody. She knows it. Her words are not a line in water. If people come forward to support what she says, it is a sorry state of affairs. How can someone encourage violence and hatred?
The genocide of First Nations children can never be justified nor can the burning of churches. Never. What the First Nations communities have suffered in the past cannot be digested easily. The agony and pain they had in their hearts and minds must be addressed. Steps must be taken so that these things are never repeated. But the burning of churches would solve no problems.
Begetting violence with violence will lead people to nowhere. Gaps will widen. Healing starts with forgiveness, not with burning churches.
The Sikh community is still reeling 37 years after the attack on the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Many other Sikh temples were also attacked. The wound is still fresh and unhealed. The Babri mosque was dismantled 25 years ago in Ayodhya, a city in India. The Muslim community still carries the agony. Whatever happened that led to these incidents cannot be equated with the attacks on these religious places of worship. These mistakes cannot be undone.
Similarly, in Canada, the burning of churches will get no results whatsoever. These incidents will further create a gulf among people. It’s time to heal the wounds. It’s the time to apologize and assure people past mistakes will not be repeated.
What is done cannot be undone, but steps can be taken to mend ways and it is never too late to mend.
By insinuating hate, no results can be achieved. If something at all is to be burnt, it is the hatred — not the churches.
“Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10) It clearly leaves a strong message for mankind.
Let’s connect with the aggrieved and share their loss and agony and pain. Let’s assure them the whole world is with them in this hour of their loss. And by burning churches, one would get no results — not at all.
Rishi Nagar is the news director at Red FM 106.7 in Calgary and a member of the City of Calgary’s Anti-Racism Action Committee and the Calgary Police Service’s Anti-Racism Committee.