Only a few weeks ago I shared a poem called “Martyr Children,” about the children of Palestine who were being killed on a daily basis by tyrants who have no conscience. (The oppression continues through occupation and cultural genocide, even if the killing has stopped.)
And only two weeks ago we dedicated a part of our Rhoda Masjid property to serve as a memorial garden for the child victims of war. It was our way to honour the children who we witnessed losing their lives. To keep a lasting memory, to make a living effort to commemorate in person, on this earth, and not just commiserate online.
Now, the news of a mass grave of 215 children at the site of a residential school close to the City of Kamloops’ Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation (here in Canada). These child martyrs were buried without ceremony, after having been taken by force from their families, communities, and culture. Our hearts break for innocent lives taken and the lasting impact on survivors.
We offer our deepest condolences to our Indigenous sisters and brothers, who know only too well what settler state oppression is like. We owe it to those children, their communities, and our own humanity to take this as a wake-up call. What is the nature of our presence here on earth, here in Canada or elsewhere? How do we honour each life, especially those not our own (beyond our own families and ethnic lines). And how do we go forward towards a better future than what we have seen in our recent past.
My dear brother Albert Dumont “South Wind” (with whom we have planted two trees at the Rhoda — last year and a few years ago) has written a deeply moving poem in honour of the children who suffered in the colonial residential school system which I would like to share with you here.
Ninidjànis (My Child)
Dedicated to the children who suffered humiliation and death at the Residential Schools
by Albert Dumont ©
Your heritage, oh, noble child
Carried violently into the swirling winds
Of cultural genocide
All your innocence sacrificed
For the ransom of the civilized
Your song denied
Your spirit ravaged
Your mind crucified
Yet the surrogate did not weep
When your heart gave in, to conjured sleep
No tears, for the ward of the “savage” wild
Even though, thousands died
But God blessed you as special ones
In the Spirit Place beyond the sun
Where even the shadows of men who hate
Will never challenge to leave their weight
Where you complete the ancient plan
Of the Sacred treaty, made between God and man
We as Muslims share the same conviction as expressed in this poem: that children who leave this world go to the Spirit Place beyond the sun. We call it Paradise, and we believe those children are blessed to be in this better place, far from suffering. Their travelling there is indeed “completion of the ancient plan of the Sacred treaty, made between God and man,” as Albert so beautifully puts it.
As for us, who are still here on earth, we must keep the memory of such children and what they went through alive, and it is in this spirit that we created the memorial garden just outside the doors of our mosque. Here, the children of our community planted and will continue to plant fruit trees in the names of martyred children. We would like the memorial garden to be for children victims of war and the children victims of state genocide, as the children of the residential school system were.
This planting of trees is our way of resisting the earthly despair of oppression and evil, and teaching the children of today to become people of heart, morality, and conscience. People who honour the sacred — and the most sacred thing of all: another creature’s life. God created us all; none of us has the right to take away the rights, life, or safety of another being.
We are teaching our children to look after the trees, water them, and to pray for the souls of children who left this earth, all in this memorial garden. We invite you to join with us and bring your children over to be part of this project. It is a project to sow hope. We are reminding ourselves of the only coping mechanism there is: to remember our ancient spiritual traditions, the truth that life carries on beyond this earthly realm, and that the most important treaty is that made between God and man. We each have signed that treaty. We must live up to that commitment here and now.
If you would like to participate in this project of a memorial garden for child victims, please message us at email@example.com