Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and indigenous people and people of colour around the world, we're praying that non-Indigenous people and white people will stay awake.
The following is an edited excerpt from a recorded conversation between Common Grace CEO Brooke Prentis and Christian ecological ethicist Dr Byron Smith, facilitated by Common Grace’s Creative and Communications Director, Brigitta Ryan. It is titled 2020, the Year of Disruption: COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the Climate CrisisListen to the full conversation here
BROOKE PRENTIS: The Torres Strait Islanders, they're losing their homes. The islands are under threat right now and have been for many years. And so how do we actually focus on what's happening here? We have to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We are impacted the most. We've been impacted by climate change for the last two hundred and fifty years. But if we think about the current kind of climate action... Australia can't just keep breaking the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples that bring some of these things to account: protect our sacred sites, let us have our cultures and so many other things… That would mean you would want to protect the homes of Torres Strait Islanders. We know that there are more cyclones, with more ferociousness, coming more often. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are feeling these things straight away and more deeply because of the level of injustice.
BRIGITTA RYAN: You’re right, it’s not a new injustice, it's been over 250 years, but surely it's not incidental that this is the year that the visibility of the protests, for Black Lives Matter specifically, have come to the fore in Australian culture and the Australian media. What's your take on why that is?
BROOKE PRENTIS: I think it goes back to how people have had this privileged rest moment through COVID-19 and a global pandemic. And so all of a sudden, there was visibility! People were listening! You know, I've prayed for the day that Australia and the world would tackle racism. And then here in 2020, I find that it happened! But since George Floyd died on the 25th of May, you know -- I'm still having people say to me, that's when Black Lives Matter started. And I'm like, that's not when it started.
DR BYRON SMITH: “That’s when you started paying attention.”
BROOKE PRENTIS: Yeah! I call this sort of paying attention “wake up moments.” But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and indigenous people and people of colour around the world, we're praying that non-Indigenous people and white people will stay awake. And already I've seen people go back to sleep. They're no longer talking about Black Lives Matter. They've moved on. We had those first big rallies where thousands of people came out across Australia, risking their own health but still socially distancing... you know, we've got to make sure that we understand the media does not tell the true story [of what happens].
DR BYRON SMITH: No. The only people at those rallies without masks were the police.
BROOKE PRENTIS: Yep, we've got to tell the truth of the situation. But as there's been more Aboriginal people dying in custody, where have the people been to support us? It's not just about turning up to one rally or march, it's about continuing to turn up and actually doing the action... And that's the responsibility of all of us.
In reflecting on Brooke and Byron’s discussion this week take time to read through Romans 13:10-12 and consider your own ‘wake up’ moments.
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light;
Romans 13: 10-12
In the midst of witnessing the increasing severity of climate change and confronting the global COVID-19 pandemic, many injustices have been brought to the front of the social consciousness. Examine your response to hearing these voices calling for justice. How are we to ‘put on the armour of light’ in our pursuit for justice? How do we ensure we do not go back to sleep when these injustices fall out of the media cycle but still cry out in need for our response and action?
Pray that we do not grow weary in our pursuit of justice. Pray that we would remain faithful in uplifting all things to God in prayer, confident that he hears our voice and is mightily at work in His world. Pray that His Spirit would help us seek ways we can love our neighbour in hearing the calls for justice and dedicating ourselves to action.
We are joining together with Christians from across these lands now called Australia to pray for creation and climate justice with an online prayer vigil hosted by Common Grace.
Date and Time: Thursday 24 September 7pm – 8:30pm
Where: Online via Zoom
This is not a Facebook Live event.
You must register to attend this event and a link to the event will be emailed to you on the day.