Faith in action
Listen to the Heart
Join us as we are led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders to listen deeply and speak out together in support for a YES vote in the referendum for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.Read more
Q. What is the role of the Christian Church in enabling reconciliation with – and recognition of – Indigenous Australians?
A. I believe we should employ the ancient Christian practice of hospitality to illustrate the distinct contribution of the Christian community in the pursuit of true reconciliation. The continued exclusion of Indigenous people from many aspects of Australian life can be reversed and repaired through the hospitality of the church which follows the way of Jesus by loving and embracing ‘Prodigal’ sons and daughter whatever the source or course of their ‘homelessness.’
Q. What specific practices does this require?
A. First, most churches can be more hospitable by simply extending friendship to Indigenous people and by helping to overcome ignorance and neglect of Indigenous issues.
Second, churches must devolve decision-making and resources for Indigenous ministry to local partnerships, grounded in a richer theology of mission and witness of, by and for Indigenous people so as to preserve the hospitality of the Church and preclude a return to older-style paternalism.
Third, genuine partnerships between local churches and Indigenous people – reflecting guests and hosts working together – must become the dominant feature of the Church’s mission and witness.
Fourth—and a more significant challenge for the more established Churches—is not restricting hospitality to the symbol of the shared meal (Eucharist) or the provision of financial resources. Hospitality must include shared land, building and places.
Fifth, and most costly, individual churches, Church organisations and entire denominations should consider making amends by returning parcels of land or buildings to Indigenous people.
One Australian theologian has suggested provocatively that European descendants should physically “leave Australia”!! What if, instead, the Christian community could gift ten, twenty or even fifty new sites for Indigenous education, health and other community-based projects across the country? These gifts of reconciliation would not be ends in themselves. They could become relational places of hospitality and partnership where continuing obligations and needs true reconciliation could be addressed. The kind of community life that is necessary includes third, local places (like schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods) where there is a distinct and continuing role for the followers of Jesus.
In summary, the history of wrongdoing by the Church towards Indigenous Australians is first addressed through deep repentance, then costly hospitality and repairing justice. Apart from these any talk of reconciliation will remain cheap.