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Aboriginal Christian Leader Sono Leone reflects on the challenges of Reconciliation and shares her heart to see relationships built between Aboriginal & non-Aboriginal Australia.

Sono Leone is a proud descendant of the Garawa and Butchulla Nations now living in Brisbane, and the founder and Director of Strong Women Talking, delivering culturally-sensitive Domestic Violence workshops to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women in communities.

How does being a Christian and desiring Reconciliation go together for you?

For me as an Aboriginal Christian I have always found the word Reconciliation hard to stomach when it came to Aboriginal & non-Aboriginal Australia. Reconciliation for me is when two parties were together in the beginning and then became separated, then are bought back together (being reconciled). Much like mankind in the beginning with our Creator God, our heavenly Father, we were in the beginning with Him until sin entered and we became separated. Then, without Jesus' love, life, death and resurrection we would not be able to be reconciled with our heavenly Father. I believe there was never that relationship between our people and non-Aboriginal people during the time of colonisation in this country, where we would be considered as one (in right relationship together) with colonists. It's hard for me to say we should be reconciled back together. I have always preferred the word Recognition. Where non-Aboriginal people living in this country are able to recognise the past, present and build on a future that is strong with respectful relationships with our people. God's way is for all mankind to love one another as He first loved us. So for me, its more relationship building which people refer to as Reconciliation.

What do you hope for our nation?

I hope for a nation that acknowledges God and Jesus as the foundation. I hope for a Christian nation that walks out love in a practical way. A nation of people who can walk with us as First Nations people in a meaningful way, which is heart felt and genuine. I hope for equity for our people in every area of our lives, be it, spiritual, financial, emotional and physical.

When have you seen the broader Australian Church at its best in embodying/living out Reconciliation? What would you like to see?

That's a hard one. To be honest it's hard to say I have seen the broader church living out Reconciliation. I have definitely seen individual church groups living out Reconciliation. I am so blessed to have amazing church partners who have walked out their faith through genuine relationship building and this is something that has always encouraged me and built me up as a Christian. Having brothers and sisters in Christ that are non-Indigenous and have them make meaningful relationships with me over the years has been excellent. I would love to see more churches actually walking with our mob in a respectful way. Genuinely listening and respecting us, particularly being the oldest living culture in the world. Also walking with us with our many social injustices that effect our mob continually such as black deaths in custody, over representation in the prisons and youth detention centres, lower mortality rate, chronic illness, substance misuse, high domestic violence rates and homelessness. Seeing non-Indigenous churches understanding that we have been being evangelised to for the last 200+ years, hearing and receiving the gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ. Now we are ready and waiting for meaningful relationships between First nations and non-Indigenous to be built and grow so we can see God's kingdom on this earth.

Read more of Sono's story on the Grasstree Gathering website. You can learn more about Strong Women Talking and find ways to support on their Facebook page.


Reflect, Pray, Think, Act

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." – Proverbs 17:17

True friendship is revealed in care and support in times of trouble. Our Aboriginal brothers and sisters have been bearing up under adversity for generations. Pray you will open yourself to hearing and sitting with friends through the pain of adversity this Reconciliation week.

National Reconciliation Week 2018’s theme is Don’t Keep History a Mystery – Learn, Share, Grow. An important theme. Australians know so little about the history of this land. I’m not talking about 230 to 248 years ago but from 65,000 years ago to present day.

A good place to start is to watch the SBS series First Australians. You can watch it here free online.

Sono Leone is a proud descendant of the Garawa and Butchulla Nations now living in Brisbane, and the founder and Director of Strong Women Talking, delivering culturally-sensitive Domestic Violence workshops to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women in communities. 

This post is the second in our Reconciliation as Friendship series celebrating Aboriginal Christian leaders from the Grasstree Gathering and sharing their perspectives on Reconciliation. Artwork by Jasmin Roberts, used with permission.

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