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Broken Walls Seeks to End Culture Wars
The Aboriginal people’s band has carried a message of reconciliation to 12 countries.

"God works best in the diversity of every culture,” states Jonathan Maracle, 53-year-old lead singer of the band Broken Walls. His biblical message of reconciliation has been heard in 12 countries. The band’s latest release, The Father’s Dance, was nominated in six categories for the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.

Walls created between cultures by colonialism need to be broken down. Broken Walls – Bill Pagaran, Jonathan Maracle and Kris Delorenzi – performs at an outdoor concert.

“We’ve tried to make our music palatable to the world. We use a strong indigenous foundation to the music,” says Maracle.

The three-member band Broken Walls formed in 1995. Maracle, a Mohawk raised in a Christian home, already had an award-winning music career. But that year he wrote a Mohawk chant for the 1995 March for Jesus and later attended the Sacred Gathering in Hull hosted by Elijah Harper. Maracle felt convicted that walls created between cultures by colonialism needed to be broken down.

“I had this revelation that why should I give up my culture? I had a revelation of walls being broken down.” The band celebrates the Christian message using First Nations flute and drums with chants and songs of praise in indigenous languages and styles. It includes Bill Pagaran, a Tlingit from Palmer, Alaska, and Kris Delorenzi, a non-aboriginal from Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“Jesus is not restricted to a culture,” Maracle says. “The diversity of peoples and cultures around the world is an expression of God’s creativity, not something to be suffocated and put down.

When God created our people, He didn’t make a mistake. He wants to use the good things in our people to bring healing to the world.”

Broken Walls focuses its ministry on North America, although it has played in many other places. “The same situations are prevalent everywhere. There are the dominant societies and then there are the hurting and broken. In general, the Church hasn’t done the job right with First Nations people.”

Maracle believes that “our need is to get into the North and role-model respect: to break the cycle of suicide and lack of respect.” He is concerned about “the hidden communities that have been forgotten by the outside world” and where “the cycle of sorrow has been going on for generations. There is desperation everywhere across North America.”

The band was set to tour the prison system in South Dakota in October 2008. “It’s the first time this has ever been done,” says Maracle. “Seventy to 80 percent of incarcerated people are native people.”

The band has also been invited by a regional United Nations representative to perform for the troops in Afghanistan close to Christmas. “I’m privileged and honoured to do it,” says Maracle, adding, “Jesus performs well within other cultures.”

Originally published in Faith Today, November/December 2008.




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