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June 16, 2008

LWF General Secretary Welcomes Canadian Government Apology to First Nations

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko has welcomed the Canadian government public apology to the First Nations, as a significant indication of the willingness to confront painful legacies of injustice against Indigenous Peoples.

On June 11, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a public apology to former students of residential schools run by the government and religious groups from the 1870s to 1970s, describing the 'aggressive assimilation' policy as a sad chapter in Canada's history.

In a statement released today, the LWF general secretary expressed the hope that Canada's apology and a similar one in February by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, would serve to provoke recognition of Indigenous Peoples and their sufferings in other parts of the world.

Honest examination of past wounds is a necessary step to the healing of memories. I pray that these apologies represent the beginnings of an open process of deeper reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-indigenous peoples, said Noko.

He expressed gratitude to the Lutheran church leadership in Australia and Canada for publicly declaring support for the official apologies issued by their respective governments, saying it was an indication of the churches' engagement in the search for reconciliation.

In this process, churches must confront their own responsibilities openly and honestly, in order to heal and be healed, stressed Noko.

The full text of Dr Noko's statement follows:

Statement from LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko on Canadian Government Apology to First Nations

I welcome the apology issued on 11 June 2008 by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the abuses committed against children of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in federally-financed residential schools in Canada. This important acknowledgement of responsibility follows a similar apology issued in February this year by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for policies that had inflicted profound suffering on Australia's Aboriginal people.

I believe that such formal expressions of responsibility and remorse are not only of historical and symbolic significance. They begin to address past injustices and attitudes which, if not
addressed, perpetuate the suffering and discrimination. These statements indicate a growing maturity and willingness in both countries to confront painful legacies of injustice against
Indigenous Peoples.

Honest examination of past wounds is a necessary step to the healing of memories. I pray that these apologies represent the beginnings of an open process of deeper reconciliation between
Aboriginal and non-indigenous peoples in Canada and Australia. I am grateful that Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Rev. Michael Semmler, President of the Lutheran Church of Australia, both declared their support for the official apologies issued by their respective Heads of Government, indicating the engagement of the Lutheran churches in Canada and Australia in the search for reconciliation. In this process, churches must confront their own responsibilities openly and honestly, in order to heal and be healed.

I pray that these initiatives will also serve to provoke recognition of Indigenous Peoples and their sufferings in other parts of the world in which injustices against them - and even their existence as peoples - are not yet acknowledged.


The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of over 68.3 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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