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Churches must make a stand for justice now


Bianca Manning presenting at the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit at Parliament House in 2022.


By KIRRALEE NICOLLE

Aboriginal Christian leaders are taking time to remember the prayerful contributions of their predecessors this National Reconciliation Week.

This year’s theme, Be a Voice for Generations, reminds all Australians to work towards reconciliation through their speech, actions and roles in society. For Indigenous leaders, the theme also represents the weight of knowledge and wisdom passed from generation to generation over centuries of trauma and displacement.


Head of the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Divinity and Bidjara woman Professor Anne Pattel-Gray said the statement carried enormous meaning for both her people and non-Indigenous Australians. She said it was an important message for the Church.


“This is the time for churches to be visible, to be prophetic, but more importantly, to take a stand and to be Christ’s witnesses for change,” Anne said.


Professor Anne Pattel-Gray says it is time for churches to take a stand for justice for First Nations people.

“It’s a loaded statement that one could talk about for a lot of time because there’s just so much knowledge and wisdom that is yet to be shared with this country from First Nations people,” she said. “It’s a really important time for every individual in this country to validate their support for First Nations people, but also to eradicate and begin to address historical traumas and colonial history to put it to rest once and for all.”


Anne said recent racist comments towards ABC presenter and Wiradjuri man Stan Grant were appalling and that most Australians were not racist and needed to take this opportunity to declare their unwavering support for Indigenous Australians.


“It’s abhorrent that in 2023 we have this level of racism and hatred continuing to be perpetuated against high-profile leaders,” she said. “It should be something that we Christians should be standing up and speaking loudly against.”


Emerging Aboriginal Christian leader and Gomeroi woman Bianca Manning said this year’s National Reconciliation Week was particularly significant, with conversations focusing on the proposed Voice to Parliament and a rising discussion of Aboriginal justice. She said she hoped the week would lead Christians to pray and that National Reconciliation Week began in 1993 as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation.


“There are so many things that need to be addressed and continue to be worked on,” she said. “My hope is that Christians can engage in the truth of [our] history in [a] process of learning and lamenting.”


Bianca said she hoped the proposed Voice would be a step in the direction of justice.


“I think [with] this theme and this moment that we're in this year, it’s really important to continue to prioritize that process of deep listening, our journey of walking together, our journey of building genuine relationships of learning, embracing the beauty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and stories but also walking this journey of reckoning with our past and our present,” she said.


The Salvation Army’s vision for reconciliation is to be a faith movement committed to social justice, equity and freedom.


The Salvos aim to respect, value and acknowledge the unique cultures, spiritualities, histories and languages of the oldest surviving culture in the world, and to engage in a unified and positive relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities.


The development and implementation of its first national Salvation Army Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), launched in 2020, is key to driving reconciliation practices.


For more information on The Salvation Army’s Reconciliation Action Plan, click here

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