Sept 4, 2020
Over the last few days, the discussion surrounding COVID-19 in Manitoba, particularly in how it impacts the current school year, has taken on an urgent tone. These discussions and the events that are taking place today will undoubtedly be remembered by future generations as a period of tremendous challenge, change, and hopefully, growth.
These trying times are presenting us all with a steep learning curve and the HSC is not exempt. We learned quickly that governments are ready to give us the benefit of the doubt, but also that they will hold us accountable should we prove to be untrustworthy. The education issue is a good example of the lengths governments are willing to go to ensure full compliance with Public Health Orders. Let's not prove to be untrustworthy or attempt to mislead public health officials because this simply means the protocols with shift to address that reality. This is no surprise, of course, because untruthfulness and deception destroy trust and credibility.
For the most part, many of our communities developed a false sense of security based on the premise: “ If we don’t say anything, if we don’t do anything, if we try to be ‘the quiet in the land,’ if we simply hide in our communities, this issue will somehow magically disappear.” While this approach may have worked in the past, particularly with lesser threats, it clearly fails in this instance because of the global nature of this pandemic. Proof of this failure is Premier Scott Moe's very public rebuke of Hutterite communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen’s delivery of the same firm message to Manitoba Hutterite
communities. Another issue that has greatly complicated the church’s response to this crisis, is our understanding of civil and church law. Too often in the past, and even now, we have given in to the idea that it is okay to break the civil law for the good of the church. Der Zweck heiligt die mittel . This line of thinking is, simply put, wrong. In a global health crisis like we are facing today, taking such a position is doubly wrong as it is likely to cause harm not only to the church but to
the general public--our neighbours--as well.
Some have suggested that HSC supports the sins of governments by simply interfacing with them. This is not rational. We all pay taxes that go into war efforts. This is beyond our control and obviously does not mean that we support these efforts. That would be like suggesting Christ supported the sins of the sinners in whose homes he spent time.
As part of understanding its role as an intermediary, the HSC COVID-19 Taskforce made a simple decision on day one: We would not report or police our people, but neither would we sugarcoat, manipulate, or deceive in fulfilling the roles and responsibilities with which we were tasked. Since March 2020, there are many different choices the Taskforce could have made; there are some things we could have done more effectively. Such is life. Truth, transparency, and accountability, however, are the only things that will get us where we need to be.
The important thing is that Hutterites have an entity that has gained trust and credibility. This entity is doing the difficult work of bridging between governments that expect instant compliance and our communities, some of whom are struggling to comply. This is a tall order. Where do we go from here? Please help us shape the direction. Consider joining us for a town hall meeting via Zoom on Saturday. We are heading back to school and getting the plan in place for our communities has been a rollercoaster of a ride. This will likely be a topic for discussion.
We are open to your feedback and your concerns. Help us explore the complexity of what it means to be a people of faith and good citizens in our respective provinces. What are the areas we can improve?
Hutterian Safety Council, Chair