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Reconciliation: The heart of the gospel


A cross made out of stones that was formed at the Yakila conference in South Australia earlier this year.

BY LUCY DAVIS*

 

The road to reconciliation is not one with directions or instructions. I have been in the reconciliation space for many years, starting my career off working for Catholic Education and now, for the past eight years, working with The Salvation Army as the Reconciliation Action Plan and Projects Manager.

 

We at the Salvos have just completed our First National Reconciliation Action Plan, known as a RAP, with 89 deliverables. It is an outstanding achievement but has not come without reflection on our ministry and ourselves. 

 

I must constantly remind myself that reconciliation is the heart of the gospel: that God has chosen to reconcile me to himself and that, in turn, I have a responsibility as a follower of Jesus to become reconciled to those around me.


Even though this beautiful word, ‘reconciliation’, rolls off my tongue several times a week in regular conversation, I am beginning to realise that although this is my dream, it is not my reality.

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the story of a merciful God who provides the sole means of grace, pardon, and forgiveness to a fallen, rebellious, and wicked creation who hates him (Ezekiel 18: 23, 32). Even when he could have let us remain in our wretched condition and condemned us to hell for rebelling against him, he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to this world to carry out the mission of rescuing us despite ourselves (Isaiah 53:5-6; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-11, 6:23).

 

The term for this undeserved act of grace is called reconciliation. Through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross in his sacred role as the perfect, sinless and final sacrifice for our sins, we are no longer bound by the wretchedness we brought upon ourselves for our rebellion against God at the start of history.

 

The Salvation Army has a deep concern for the poor and homeless. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus challenges us to be attentive to those who need our help, whether they have been wounded by violence, misfortune or poverty.

 

Those of us who have come to Christ for salvation and reconciliation with God need to keep alert and compel all to come to him in these closing days. How great is our God! Please run to his open arms today.

 

The RAP framework directs organisations to create tangible outcomes in four areas:

Respect, Opportunities, Relationships and Governance.

All RAPS have frameworks with compulsory deliverables like inviting an Elder for National Reconciliation Week or flying Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags.

 

According to Reconciliation Australia, there are over 3000 RAPS across the country. The annual RAP Impact Report suggests that we are moving in leaps and bounds towards reconciliation in this country. But why do so many First Nations mobs feel so defeated? Why do so many First Nations mobs feel like we are not progressing, especially after the results of the referendum?

 

As I reflect on these results, I too have many questions – one being, “Is the word ‘Reconciliation’ an accurate one that fits the course of what we are trying to achieve for First Nations peoples around advocacy and survival?’

 

The result of the Referendum was gut-wrenching, to say the least, with a staggering 60 per cent of Australians against recognition or giving First Nations peoples a voice to speak on issues directly relating to their community.

 

The other 40 per cent in favour came from mostly First Nations communities themselves, with overwhelming voting results of between 95-97 per cent in favour of a voice. The narrative of the ‘No’ campaign pushed hard on misinformation, and that was the winner at the end of the day.

 

Lucy Davis speaking at the Yakima conference in Adelaide earlier this year.

Pushing conversations like ‘First Nations peoples in remote communities do not want this’, and that ‘city-elite blackfellas were pushing this agenda to benefit them’ meant that so many Aussies bought into this narrative and, in return, we as a country truly let down the communities that needed it the most.

 

This statistic rings across my heart every day. The mob who spoke up, First Nations communities who spoke up about the need for change and a need for their voices to be heard, we’re simply ignored and not listened to.

 

I am challenged by questions of my own like, “How can I reconcile with God if those who I call my brothers and sisters in Christ don’t want to reconcile with me or, in this case, even see me or hear my voice?”

 

I have concluded that reconciliation can no longer be looked at through the same lens. Reconciliation needs to be unpacked with mob initially and other faith-based leaders. RAPS can be successful if the internal structures are changed to allow First Nations voices to speak into the space all the time, not just during Nation Reconciliation Week or NAIDOC.

 

We at the Salvos need to evaluate whether our RAP is having an impact on communities we are working in and how we can empower the local voices in those communities, as they are the ones who know what is best for their mob.

 

I am very proud of our RAP. The changes we have made to support and empower mob to want to work at the Salvos are literally award-winning. We are the recipients of the Seek 2024 Social Inclusion Best Diversity & Inclusion Initiative and are now the finalist in the Queensland Reconciliation Awards for our Christmas Cheer initiative in First Nations communities.

 

As conversations change across our country, First Nations peoples and communities are still faced with the same disadvantages and injustices we had before the referendum. No changes to laws or policies that continually disempower First Nations peoples, only a whisper of enormous amounts of funding that may or may not even land in First Nations communities.

 

The Salvation Army’s presence in this space is crucial as our services and programs report high rates of First Nation participation.

One certainty surrounding the reconciliation space is that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, must examine our relationship and decide what changes need to be made. If this journey of reconciliation is about walking together, then one of us has to decide who has the most blisters on our feet. We must consider new directions and stop asking First Nations peoples to give so much with little in return, particularly during significant weeks like National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC.

 

The Salvation Army’s presence in this space is crucial as our services and programs report high rates of First Nation participation.

 

The Uluru Statement provided us with a roadmap for change, a roadmap to reconciliation with outcomes that would bring meaningful change to First Nations people and our communities. It also gave and still gives the Australian people a gift: to walk with us in a movement for a better future. The movement must continue. 


*Lucy Davis is the Australia Territory’s Reconciliation Action Plan and Projects Manager



 

 

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