Brooke Prentis launches Reconciliation Week with a powerful video message on Rethinking Reconciliation, and offers us an invitation to friendship.
Brooke Prentis is an Waka Waka woman, Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace and the coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering. Today she reflects on National Reconciliation Week 2018 as it comes to a close.
Thank you for being our friends
Here we are on Mabo Day, 3 June, the end of National Reconciliation Week 2018. Do you think Australia treated this as a national week? How many mainstream news articles did you read about National Reconciliation Week? Did your church acknowledge National Reconciliation Week?
National Reconciliation Week sits in between January 26 and NAIDOC Week (8 – 15 July 2018). Between mourning and celebration. As it sits “in between” it is there for us to ask questions, you’ve seen I’ve already asked quite a few, and there are still more to come! This year’s theme, ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’, required us to ask “How much do I know about the true history of Australia?” But it’s not just to ask the easy questions but also ask the hard questions. National Reconciliation Week is here for you to ask God to help you see what you need to learn, to change, and to do, to take your place in helping to bring about Reconciliation in Australia.
As I come to the end of National Reconciliation Week 2018, I am encouraged, but also hugely aware of the long road ahead. For me, it still starts with friendship – Reconciliation as friendship – a call I’ve been making since 2012. I hope many of you took up our call on day 1 and rang your Aboriginal friends or if you don’t have an Aboriginal friend to pray for one. If you haven’t yet – do it today!
Common Grace’s call is to see Reconciliation achieved in our lifetime through amplifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian voices. We’ve taken a step closer to Reconciliation as we weaved together my message of Reconciliation as friendship with the stories of Sono, Adam, Nicole, Rhanee, and Safina, and as we shared The Grasstree Gathering’s 2018 video.
You’ve seen through each of the stories that Reconciliation doesn’t end today – we have a long way to go. Each of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders shared their reality and their heart, in truth and love, whilst putting out a challenge to all of us with their answers to the question – “When have you seen the broader Australian Church at its best in embodying/living out Reconciliation?”
It’s here I will ask you do you know how National Reconciliation Week started? Well, the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had 339 Recommendations – only a handful have ever been implemented – in the last 12 months there have been about 18 reported Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – many go unreported. Recommendation 339 said, “Initiate a formal process of reconciliation between Aboriginal people and the wider community.” But it was Christians that led the way when in 1993, the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Australian Christians started the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation and was supported by Australia’s major faith communities. In 1996, society caught up to the churches and we had Australia’s first National Reconciliation Week.
I shared with you in my video that as a 17 year old, in 1997, I thought Reconciliation would be achieved by the year 2000 which meant a Treaty would be in place, I would be treated as an equal, and I would no longer experience racism.
If Australian Christians did such a good work in 1993 why has the church’s support for Reconciliation faded away so much that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders cannot name a hundred examples of Reconciliation at work within the Australian church in 2018. If Australian society had National Reconciliation Week for 22 years where is our Treaty, where is equality, and why will one in three Aboriginal people experience racism this week? A reality I experienced this week. How will the church pray, sit, stand, and walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders into the 23rd year of National Reconciliation Week?
My belief is that the Australian church, as individual followers of Christ who live in this land now called Australia, can lead again, and that this will happen when the Australian church embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders, and not only embraces us but let’s us lead as equals.
Common Grace as an expression of the Australian church, church being individual followers of Jesus, you and I, have led the way this week. We led the way because we have embraced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders as equals. The only other expression of the Australian church doing this authentically are Common Grace’s and Grasstree’s friends at Surrender.
So often in our country Reconciliation has become just a word. But it is so much more than that. Reconciliation is a journey, Reconciliation is an action – it affects real peoples’ lives. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we can’t do Reconciliation on our own. Thank you for coming on the journey with us this week, thank you for taking action, thank you for reminding us we aren’t on our own. Thank you for being our friends.
- Reconciliation doesn’t stop at the end of National Reconciliation Week – continue to share the stories that we’ve shared this week through social media, through your church, use one of the devotions in our emails in your small group
- Put Reconciliation Week in your calendar/diary 27 May to 3 June every year!
- Put NAIDOC Week in your calendar/diary 8 July – 15 July 2018 (note NAIDOC Week generally runs from the first Sunday to the second Sunday in July each year). I will be speaking at Newtown Mission in Sydney on Sunday 8 July and Essendon Baptist in Melbourne on Sunday 15 July – come along!
- Look out for the services of Prayer and Lament in the week and a half before January 26.
- Spread the word about Common Grace and The Grasstree Gathering.
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Reflect, Pray, Think, Act
"Live in harmony with one another... If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
From Romans 12
The scriptures call us to harmony, peace and a deep unity between people. This is what our God is like - one who works incredible reconciliation and longs for it to overflow everywhere. May we together commit to more than a week of Reconciliation, but live lives that embody the deep friendship & peace of God in Christ.
Have a face to face conversation with a non-Aboriginal friend where you share a story of an Aboriginal Christian leader you have learnt about through Common Grace’s Reconciliation Week and share if/how God has called you to a deeper sense of Reconciliation as friendship this Reconciliation Week.
Written by the Wontulp Bi-Buya Indigenous Theology Working Group 13 March 1997 Brisbane, Qld.
Holy Father, God of Love,
You are the Creator of all things.
We acknowledge the pain and shame of our history
and the sufferings of Our peoples,
and we ask your forgiveness.
We thank you for the survival of Indigenous cultures
Our hope is in you because you gave your Son Jesus
to reconcile the world to you.
We pray for your strength and grace to forgive, accept and love one another, as you love us and forgive and accept us in the sacrifice of your Son.
Give us the courage to accept the realities of our history so that we may build a better
future for our Nation.
Teach us to respect all cultures.
Teach us to care for our land and waters.
Help us to share justly the resources of this land. Help us to bring about spiritual and social change to improve the quality of life for all groups in our communities, especially the disadvantaged.
Help young people to find true dignity and self-esteem by your Spirit.
May your power and love be the foundations on which we build our families, our communities and our Nation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Brooke Prentis is an Waka Waka woman, Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace and the coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering. This post is the eighth and final 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.