Dear Friends in Christ,
December 6, 1989. It was a Wednesday. I remember it well. There are certain moments that leave such an impression that you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news: that two planes flew into the World Trade Center, that Paul Henderson put the puck in the net or that the Berlin Wall came crumbling down. Many of us will remember what we were doing when we heard the news that 14 women were slain by a lone gunman at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. Murdered because they were women. I was serving as curate at St. George’s in Guelph. The days that followed this horrible event were filled with candlelight vigils, prayer circles and a collective outpouring of disbelief, anger and sorrow. Every December 6 since then I have intentionally found a way to commemorate those who perished.
This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent, marks the 31st anniversary of that horrific day. Despite the spotlight that the dreadful tragedy at Ecole Polytechnique brought to misogyny and gender-based violence in our society, this is a problem that seemingly will not go away. Heinous acts of violence against women, girls and LGBTQ2S persons continue across our country. Indeed, we know that they have increased during the pandemic, particularly instances of domestic abuse.
Our second reading on Sunday, our reading from 2 Peter, asks: “what sort of persons ought you to be, in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” In this Season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ, how can we help to usher in the Reign of God? For those of us who do not perpetrate acts of violence, and certainly do not condone them, it can be difficult to know how to act, and how to help protect the vulnerable who find themselves in dangerous situations.
First of all, pray. Pray for women, girls and any who live in threatening situations. Pray for the men who abuse them, for their true repentance, enlightenment, and change of heart. Pray for the systems and structures that perpetrate misogynistic ideas, that they may be overthrown. Pray for the services that are in place to protect the vulnerable, that they will have the authority and responsibility to adequately protect those they are meant to serve. Pray for government leaders and those in authority to have the courage to create laws that protect the rights and safety of every individual.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women is a day when we remember those who have experienced gender-based violence. We remember mothers and sisters, daughters and aunts, grandmothers and granddaughters who lost their lives. And this is a day when we do more than remember. We are also called to action. Working together, we can help prevent and speak out against gender-based violence. We can learn from our past, listen to survivors, and address harmful behaviour.
December 6 falls within the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Please consider adding your voice to the conversation between November 25 and December 10 and share the ways you are striving to end gender-based violence using the hashtag #16Days.
May the Church provide light and life for all women, every sister in Christ living in peril and fear. May the Church offer healing and a safe harbour for our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, daughters, granddaughters, and friends, who struggle to dwell in peace.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto