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The coroner of Nunavut stated in September that suicide should be declared a health emergency in the northern territory in light of the 45 people who took their own lives in 2014 - a suicide rate 13.5 times the national average. Implicit in the coroner's call is the belief that suicide is a great tragedy. New Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan has called on the Canadian military to make suicide prevention a priority in light of the increasing number of soldiers and veterans - nearly 60, according to a Globe and Mail investigation - who have killed themselves in recent years.
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Brisk. The bite of winter pushes homelessness to the forefront of many people's lives. Flyers appear in the mailbox urging people to upgrade their insulation. My 112-year-old home creaks and groans. Winter wind pokes his fingers through hidden holes and chills feet and paws.
The headline blazed up on my computer screen: "Suicide rates are highest for men in their 50s and we're not sure why." The news story by a CBC reporter quoted Minnesota-based psychologist Dr. Dan Reidenberg who posed an important question: "What is causing the coping skills to fall apart and not work the way they did before?" What indeed? The rate of suicide among this age group of men is increasing.
At any given time most of the world believes death isn't final, that some form of immortality exists. Most people believe those who have died still exist in some state, in some modality, in some place, in some heaven or hell, however that might be conceived. In some conceptions, immortality is seen as a state wherein a person is still conscious and relational; in other concepts, existence after death is understood as real but impersonal, like a drop of water that has flowed back into the oceans.
In my lifetime, the mainstream liberal culture first championed divorce; divorce was followed by contraception and the proliferation of pornography, contraception by abortion and euthanasia, euthanasia by homosexual conduct, homosexual conduct by the entire abolition of distinctive gender. But all these assaults are really attacks on the primal truth of the book of Genesis, "Male and female he created them" (Genesis 1.27).
The month of November witnesses a number of important observances, from All Saints' and All Souls' Day which begin the month, to Remembrance Day in the middle, to Advent that closes out the month. All of these mark an engagement with birth, death and resurrection in some complex sense.
The pope declared an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning Dec. 8. We need to reflect on the profound reality that no one is beyond the mercy of Jesus. Mercy is available to presidents, prime ministers, rich and poor, old and young, prisoners, drug addicts, the marginalized, everyone.
The "one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." To me, this is hope. And hope is a difficult thing to find these days. If we are paying attention, there is no end to human suffering in the world around us.
It seems impossible to read a Canadian newspaper these days without weeping over coverage of the unprecedented refugee crisis worldwide. Unexpectedly, even the Canadian election campaign was momentarily caught up in the Syrian refugee dilemma, after the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. And, in early October, Canada's Catholic bishops released a pastoral letter on welcoming refugees.