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Friday, September 24, 2010

An Aboriginal discovery - Lake Mungo Indigenous Immersion 2011

Lake Mungo is a unique and precious Australian heritage site. 
Lake Mungo Indigenous Immersion 2011
 is an opportunity to connect with 
Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal sense of country
under the leadership of distinguished Aboriginal woman,
Vicki Walker Clark.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Postcolonial theology network

Have just received an invitation via Helen Mary Hill - former political staffer, now academic, writer, East Timor advocate and activist - to join the Postcolonial Theology Network on Facebook.  In case this sounds like heady stuff, in simple terms it is about reaction to colonialism and colonisation.

People might be tempted to think in terms of Africa and Asia and so on where former Empires invaded parts of the world and subjugated the local population.  Oops!  Wait a minute, isn't that what happened in Australia?  Oh yes, but the British went away.  Did they?  In Australia, we tend to think that colonialism disappeared magically on the 1 January 1901 with Federation.  We don't look at ourselves critically to see that we have not left behind colonial attitudes, Great White Father patronage and arrogance either within our own nation or in relationship with others - and I think particularly of our attitude toward the Pacific Island nations in this regard.

So I have signed up and accepted Helen Mary's invitation.  Hopefully, I will learn a lot.  Hopefully, I can make some contribution.  Hope to meet you there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Intervention through the eyes of indigenous people from outside Australia

The Living Letters Team
Back Row l - r: Rev. Sealin Garlett, Dr Hanna Grace, Second row l- r: Ms Georgia Corowa, Ms Maria
Chavez Quispe, Rev. Dr Anthony Dancer, Rev. Dr Mindawati Perangin-Angin, Fr Rex Reyes, Mr Graeme
Mundine. Front row l-r: Ms Renée Grounds, Ms Hera Rere Clarke

Details of The Living Letters Team:
The Living Letters team travelling to Australia in September will be composed of:

International delegates:

  • Ms Hera Rere Clarke, WCC Central Committee member, New Zealand, Anglican
  • Ms Renée Grounds, United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, United States
  • Dr Hanna Grace, Egypt, Coptic Orthodox
  • Rev. Dr Mindawati Perangin-Angin, WCC Central Committee member, Indonesia, Karo Batak Protestant Church
  • Fr Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Episcopal
  • Rev. Dr Anthony Dancer, Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia (accompanying member)

Local delegates:

  • Ms Georgia Corowa, coordinator, Queensland Churches Together Indigenous People's Partnership
  • Rev. Sealin Garlett, deputy chair of the NATSIEC Commission, Uniting Church in Australia


  • Mr Graeme Mundine, NATSIEC-NCCA (local coordinator)
  • Ms Maria Chavez Quispe, WCC (team leader)

World Council of Churches Living Letters Statement
At the invitation of the National Council of Churches of Australia (NCCA) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) to the World Council of Churches (WCC) a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Christians have come as a Living Letter to the Aboriginal Peoples of the Northern Territory in Australia.

We come from around the world; from Bolivia, Egypt, The United States of America, The Philippines, Indonesia, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia and bring with us our own stories and experiences as Indigenous and marginalised peoples. We have come to hear the voices of Aboriginal Peoples and to bear witness to the injustices they face on a daily basis.

We thank our Aboriginal brothers and sisters for the very warm welcome we have received everywhere we have travelled. We have visited communities and peoples in Darwin, Galiwink’u, Mapuru, Wadeye, Hermannsburg, Amoonguna, Mount Nancy Town Camp, the Anglican Northern Territory future leaders and the students of Nungalinya College. We deeply appreciate the generosity people have shown us by inviting us into their homes and lives. Our only regret is that time and distance did not allow us to visit more communities.

We have gained valuable insights and have been profoundly moved by what we have heard. We are concerned to observe the discrimination, oppression and racism that Aboriginal Peoples experience on a daily basis. We are dismayed by the lack of consultation and negotiation from Governments of all levels as they make and implement policies and programs that have significant impacts on Aboriginal Peoples.

Many of us are shocked because we did not realise this is still happening in Australia. We have had insight into the “other” Australia. The one that is hidden away and not talked about honestly. Our shock was compounded by the fact that Australia is quick to condemn human rights abuses in other countries, and yet perpetuates them in its own backyard.

We too say “enough is enough!” As Christians we affirm that respect of the whole human person is important. We have heard of the injustices being perpetrated against Northern Territory communities and believe that they are not just against the Aboriginal Peoples of these places but they are being perpetrated against humanity and against the will of God.

The things we have heard about and seen this week remind us that colonisation is not something that happened two hundred years ago, it is ongoing. As Indigenous and marginalised peoples from other lands, we feel a connection to the struggle of the Aboriginal Peoples. We too experience colonisation and systemic racism in our own contexts.

We have heard about the Northern Territory Emergency Response, also known as the Intervention which was initiated by the Howard Government ostensibly to address child

We have heard the Intervention has taken control of the lives of Aboriginal Peoples through such measures as compulsory income management and compulsory acquisition of leases over Aboriginal land.

We have heard that it was necessary to suspend aspects of the Racial Discrimination Act in order to implement these measures.

We have heard of the people’s confusion and despair at these extreme measures and their hope for change with the change of Government in 2007. Despite this hope, the Labor government has continued the Intervention which remains a blight on Australia’s reputation.

We challenge these unjust and racist structures and systems and question the Australian lawmakers about how they conduct their business just as Jesus questioned the Pharisees and lawmakers of his time.

The Intervention has been a failure because the Government has not listened to Aboriginal voices and has not negotiated or properly consulted about any aspect of these policies. The Government used armed forces to implement the Intervention. People continue to be forced from their homelands and outstations. People are being treated like criminals without just cause.

The Government and the media continue to paint a picture of Aboriginal dysfunction and yet refuse to look in the mirror at the devastating effect that their own cultural practices have on Aboriginal communities.

We say to the current Government you have had three years to “reset the relationship with Aboriginal Peoples”, yet you have failed to do so. In fact we have heard in every place we visited that life has not improved under the Intervention, it has in fact deteriorated. We have heard of despair, anguish and confusion throughout the Intervention years and the dismantling of communities.

We have also heard and seen the strength of resistance. “The oldest living, surviving culture in all the world” has not been crushed. The will of the people to stand up for their rights has heartened us and inspired us to action. We feel a great responsibility to ensure that the time and stories that was generously shared with us will produce positive outcomes and that their voices will not go unheeded.

To our Indigenous brothers and sisters we say; “You do not stand alone”. We will endeavour to support and encourage your resistance against injustice. We affirm your right to self- determination. We affirm your right to live in your own Traditional Lands and we affirm your right to maintain and enrich your cultures and ensure your traditions are strengthened and passed on for generations to come. We encourage you to continue to draw on the strength of your cultures to resist the debilitating effects of the ways of the colonisers.

We stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Australia, but more than that we commit to speak out and tell the world what we have seen and heard. We strongly encourage the Churches in Australia and the World Council of Churches to commit themselves to take action to support your political rights, your human rights and your rights as Australian citizens. Our first action will be to produce a report which will detail our observations, concerns and recommendations arising from this visit and through our actions we will show that this Living Letter visit is not a “breeze blowing in the wind.”

To our Indigenous brothers and sisters we say 
“Your fight is our fight.”

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The real cost of discipleship: whatever - and all - that it takes

To-day's Gospel reading for the 23rd Sunday in the Green Season, comes from the good doctor, Luke, Chapter 14.25-33.  The story is told below in contemporary language from The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Luke 14:25-33 (The Message)

Figure the Cost
 25-27One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.  28-30"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'
 31-32"Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce?
 33"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

The words of this passage can be counted among the hard sayings of Jesus.  

We are asked to count the cost befor embarking on the journey.  To give up or run out of puff before journey is complete is foolish.  But how do we know what cost is required for this journey?  The future is not held in our hands.  We cannot see far ahead.  Except.... except that Jesus has told us ahead of time that the cost of this journey, this enterprise, will take all that we have.  

There is a corrollary to this.  If this journey does not take all that we have, if we are not prepared to pay the cost in full but only in part - then we are not in the right place, nor are we on the right path.

In the time we live in, we hear much of the prosperity gospel and what - so some say - we can expect God to give those who serve him and follow him.  Yeah?  Really?

What did Jesus get? 

He got poverty, ridicule, exclusion, and, finally, suffering and death.  Jesus asks us to remember his words:
Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you' - John 15: 20 (a)

Discipleship does not exist in an aura of prosperity; froth and bubble; nor in a meek and mild Saviour.  Discipleship is where the rubber hits the bitumen.  It is gritty stuff.  It is not lovey-dovey.  Nor is it soft and cuddly or happy-ever-afters.

It is serious business that Jesus demands we consider seriously - before we make the discipleship decision.  That is not the end of it, though.  Discipleship is an on-going process of submission; a case of continuing commitment renewed day by day.  Are we up to it?  Some will be.  Some, sadly, won't be.  Time will tell.

"Mercy there was great and grace was free."

Reconciliation - with the Crucified Man

Statue of Reconciliation

I’ve abandoned my trust in the wise and the proud
For this fragile, mysterious weakness of God
And I dare to believe in his scandalous claim
That his blood cleanses sin for who ever
Will call on his name
Live or die here I stand
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man