This is part 5 in a 7-part series “7 Reflections on Reconciliation”, for Reconciliation Week, based on interviews with four Christians from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds.
Interviews by Ben Clarke, Supporter Engagement Officer - Tearfund’s work with First Peoples.
Rhanee Tsetsakos, an Adnyamathanha woman from Port Augusta with close family ties to country and family in the northern Flinders Ranges - Adnyamathanha country, works for the Uniting Church in South Australia.
Reconciliation can't happen without forgiveness We need to remember, though, that forgiveness is not always for the other person, it's also for you to be able to to reconcile. We talk about reconciliation coming from both sides, but it can't start unless we forgive.
Forgiveness is like a reliever. Without the forgiveness so much pressure builds up and you don't know what to do with it all. Forgiveness helps you to let go of things that you can't control. It’s such an important important thing to do to help people move forward together.
Dr Steve Bevis is a Tearfund Board member and Director of Master of Transformational Development, Eastern College.
Many of us who are non-Indigenous in the church are unaware of how hurt, and distressed Indigenous people are and of the trauma that exists in the lives of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, the grief, pain, constant funerals and sense of shame.
The Gospel offers healing! Christ offers healing to Aboriginal people, families and communities. He does this, as he always does, through a mixture of compassion, forgiveness and by inviting people to accept how their own behaviours continue to perpetuate problems.
Christ also offers non-Indigenous people healing because we are a people who are suppressing our pains and our wrongdoing. We suppress it on so many levels and in so many parts of our lives.
Mark Kickett, a Noongar man from Noongar Whadjuk and Balardong country, is the State Development and Outreach Coordinator for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in South Australia.
There was wonderful old Uncle (not my uncle but very close old man) called Hughie Kerr. He was from Cherbourg Mission just out of Murgon. He recalled his days at Cherbourg. He said, “I hated the superintendent because of the white regime. I hated the white man. We had to have permission to go down into Murgon and if I got that permission I could not look a white person in the face because I hated them with a vengeance. We had to get permission to get married, to leave the settlement to go to Brisbane and all that sort of stuff…” he said. “But when I became a Christian I knew that I could love, and in a different way to love white people.” The Gospel changed his whole way of thinking and his whole life.
Tanya Riches is a Christian academic whose PhD focused on worship and social justice initiatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders.
I was constantly reminded that if we want to be a faithful representative on earth then we must walk as Jesus walked. That meant I had to open the lid of that box (of issues in Australia) and to stop and think about the ways in which I personally was beholden to the land.
I think we should be able to hear the land’s cry more profoundly the closer we get to Christ, the closer we get to understanding who God is. Especially as we grapple with issues of environmental degradation and its effects, we should be able to hear the land cry out. That is definitely what happened to me - as I came to understand the story of my land and the way my culture had engaged with the land, I realised what God wanted from me. I can't see any other way that you could live Christianly without really responding to this.
Keep informed about issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Tearfund's work with the First Peoples of Australia. Together, let’s deepen our understanding and prayerfully consider how we can engage in the work of reconciliation and healing to which God calls us.
NOTE: Not everyone is comfortable with the word reconciliation. Reconciliation talks of returning to a place when relationship was good and that has never been the case in Australia. Most people, however, continue to support the aims of the reconciliation movement.