Monday, May 11, 2009
Last night a major highway in Toronto was shut down by Canadians of Tamil origin. Half a world away in Sri Lanka, thousands of civilians are dying, caught in the crossfire between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. There is obvious anxiety about the wellbeing of loved ones and Tamils have legitimate concerns about the way they have been treated as a minority. But the Tigers are considered a terrorist group by the Canadian government and waving the Tiger flag in the protests is provocative. There is also the question of when and where freedom of assembly and expression makes sense for a cause in a distant country. I have listened to second generation Tamil youth who speak of "our country," referring to Sri Lanka, even though they were born in Canada.
While I'm trying to listen and understand, I find myself irritated by both the location of the protests and expectations. It's not that the cause is unjust. The United Church has actively expressed concern over a great many situations where human rights have been violated through the decades of its existence. We feel that demonstrating the mercy and justice spoken of by the prophets includes petitioning our government to act diplomatically.
Over the years I have written my share of letters to different levels of government over justice issues. My annoyance now arises from the insistence of one group that everyone must adopt its cause, and thereby accept disruption, including access to essential services. In this case people were unable to get to downtown Toronto hospitals.
How have you felt about these protests? Justified, or unrealistic?