Anzac Day 2020

I have to confess to you that I have never attended an ANZAC Day service.

I know, right?

I told someone this recently and they ‘excused’ me with the response, “That’s okay, I’ve never been to a church service”, thus tapping into the recent almost religious fervour ANZAC day has taken on. Never before have there been the numbers we are seeing at services all over Australia as well as at the memorial at Gallipoli. Why is this? I’ve read a couple of articles and listened to a few podcasts. There are theories, many, but I have one of my own I’d like to try out on you.


I’d like to suggest that somewhere inside the psyche of many Australians is a longing for something greater than what we have. Our foundational identity is rooted in our (white) history of prison transport…convicts. What once was shameful, a blight on a family’s history, now has been turned into a badge of honour. Or maybe it’s a relative who fought in some horrific blood-soaked battlefield who is now a family hero.

Many Aussies (particularly those with a long family history here) have a hope, a longing for connection, for something better. The increased fervour around ANZAC and Australia Day is another sign that something in our collective consciousness has been shifting over the past decade.

It’s like we are drifting loose and throwing our ‘hope rope’ around anchor points in our past to gain some significance.

ANZAC Day, once a commemorative, memorial service, has become, like Australia Day, a day of flag waving and ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ shouts. A day in which we seem to have an excuse, for good and mostly (?) for bad, to scream out “this is what I am! I am Aussie!!” (ANZAC Spirit, national pride etc). It raises for me a whole lot of questions, too complex to be dealt with here, about nationalism and patriotism, maybe even national shame regarding forced occupation, a kind of self-justification.

[warning – side-track about to happen] Deep down we know the first invaders and our early settlers’ behaviour was inexcusable, but we don’t quite know what to do with this feeling of living on stollen land, benefiting from the atrocities of the past. So instead of claiming it, owning it, and apologising for it. We shout all the louder. We assert our ownership just that bit stronger in the hope that our noise might just drown out the cries of the aboriginal lives we are standing upon and this whispering in our hearts* that says ;

something is really not quite right here”.

We also live under the distant cloud of a White Australia Policy. Surely (hopefully) this also sits deep down inside even the most racist person as a non-sensical belief system/policy. People react to Peter Drew’s Art (see pic) street art posters all over Australia depicting people of differing nationalities with the word “Aussie” underneath. Peter’s work is intentionally provocative, hoping to jar people into confronting the fact that

our nation is not white and never was

despite the government’s best efforts to make it so. We are built of the backs of (first and foremost) the people who lived upon the land we now call Australia for over 60 000 years, followed by countless generations of Afghans, Chinese, Irish, German, English, Indonesian…the list is endless! In the words of the song, “I am, you are, we all are Australian”.  [end side-track]

Picture 1

But it is what lies beneath that has me wondering. ANZAC…a day of hope. Hope that we can be unified? A longing for peace? Is it about mateship, a longing for real community, comradeship, is it deeper still?

I am leaving many of these questions undone. I am not sure I know how to answer to them. But I do have an idea around the source of where the answer may lie.

In the words of Christ (who lived under the regime of an oppressive empire, he witnessed nationalism, and the worship of the Emperor, maybe Trumps dream?) we find statements from him like, “I am the prince of peace”, “My empire/kingdom is not of this world, it looks NOTHING like THIS”. “I have come to give you life, but real, abundant life”. “I come to give you peace not this PAX ROMANA (Roman Peace) pretence, but a different kind of peace to what the world will offer you”.

It’s in some of these statements made by Jesus, that I believe our answer to identity and longing is to be found, not in religion (Jesus himself had little time for this), nor in Sunday Church services, but deep in the person of Jesus Christ, his teachings and his life.


Recommended reading

Romans Disarmed” by Brian Walsh and Sylvia C Keessmaat

“Australia Reimagined” by Hugh Mackay

*”This Whispering in our Hearts” is a book title by Henry Reynolds (Brilliant)

Photo – Peter Drew (Artist and Author of Poster Boy)




I had a Facebook conversation yesterday with an old contact from a church I was a pastor in over 15 years ago. In short the conversation went like this in response to a post I put up on SSMarriage; (this is a VERY abbreviated version with my interpretation)

Person – If you just obeyed Leviticus you would know what God want you to vote.

Me – Hahaha, if you obeyed Leviticus you would not wear clothes of mixed blend, we would be killing people for doing all sorts of things…Because “God says!”

Person – Look, DON’T ARGUE WITH ME – ITS GOD, HIS WORD, NOT ME YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH, YOU WILL STAND BEFORE HIM TO BE JUDGED. And by the way I don’t like the passive aggressive tone you took with me in the above comment.

Me – Tone? I’m not the one on caps lock shouting down the internet! I just was hoping for some interaction, some robust discussion, some push and pull.

Person – You had better take that up with God, it seems you have a problem with him, not me. All I am doing is speaking His truth.

What disturbed me more was that I was that person! And truth be told, too often, I AM that person. Give me a bone to chew I will go at it if I believe strongly enough in it!! “Person” had his kids in my Youth Ministry, I no doubt reacted to them the same way 20 years ago when they would come to me with doubts and questions, desire for discussion. “You had better stop thinking that way, it’s not how we think as Christians…just think proper…like me, as I am God’s voice…I read the bible!”

Today, I called past home to eat lunch as I was in the area and picked up a reflection book by one of my favorites, David Whyte. In it he writes on robustness, he reflects my desire for healthy conversation, healthy community, here it is;


To be robust is to be physically or imaginatively present in the very firm presence of something or someone else. Being robust means we acknowledge the living current in something other than our own story. Robustness is a measure of the live frontier in our lives, whether it is a wrestling match, a good exchange of ideas in the seminar room or a marital argument in the kitchen. Without robustness all relationships become defined by their fragility, whither and then die. To be robust is to attempt something beyond the perimeter of our own constituted identity; to get beyond our own thoughts or the edge of our own selfishness. Robustness is not the opposite of vulnerability: robustness and vulnerability belong together; to be robust is to show a willingness to take collateral damage, to put up with noise, chaos or our systems being temporarily undone. Robustness means we can veer off either side of the line while keeping a firm on-going intent. Robustness is the essence of parenting: both of children and ideas.

A lack of robustness denotes ill-health, psychological or physical, it can feed on itself; the less contact we have with anything other than our own body, our own rhythm or the way we have arranged our life, the more afraid we can become of the frontier where actual noise, meetings and changes occur, the temporary need to stop things happening eventually becoming a permanent identity based on siege, where life itself has been turned into the enemy…

We are never one thing, but always the meeting…Robustness is not an option in most human lives, to choose its opposite is to disappear.


May I always honour the divine in the ‘other’. I pray my desire to be ‘right’ never over takes my desire to engage in healthy community which includes disagreeing, debating and some robust conversations.


(Kind of appropriate on the 500th anniversary of one of the worlds most famous invitations to a robust conversation me thinx!)

An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

Source: An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

and a version of the letter here written by a mate Colin Craggs x sarcasm for illustration of the same intent minus a kind of literary violence often used …by me 😉 and you … I’m sure!!
Dear Franklin Graham
My name is Peter and this is an open letter, pastor to pastor, with other’s watching. I have to say I was insulted when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” Not that we don’t want you to visit, I do. I think there is a lot we can talk about it. I was insulted in how it was promoted and how we are portrayed.
Yes, we are small community churches. We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t very well); feed the hungry that come to our doors; care for the sick; comfort the dying; and bury the dead. Are we not the image you want for the mega-churches? Is this not the kind of prayer and action you are seeking in your ministry? We are small but we are trying our best to live out our faith well.
I have to say, though, that I was a little confused by your summons. Of all the things that worry me, loss of religious freedom for Christians in America isn’t one of them. I can’t say I have ever experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be called a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution. When you started talking about attacks on Christianity, I thought you might have been referring to the racially motivated slaying of pastors and lay people at Mother Emmanuel church in Charleston some time back. Or I figured you were referring to the slaughter of Coptic Christians in Egypt this past Palm Sunday. That’s what I call persecution. But having to pay a judgment for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex couple in violation of the law against discrimination? This you call persecution? In Peter’s writing, as an expert on persecution, having been on the receiving end of it more than once. He says you don’t get divine kudos from suffering the consequences of breaking the law-even if you are a Christian. Likewise, the Apostle Paul (aka Saul) said that if your enemy is hungry you should feed him. So wouldn’t it have been the Christian way to have baked a cake for the same sex couple in your example, even if you deem them enemies (another assertion I don’t quite understand)? I think your idea of persecution is confusing and takes away from the plight of those shedding their blood for Christ. Am I wrong in this? Clarify this point for me please?
It seems to me that the church in America has persecution complex. We need to stop with the drama. We are not under attack just because we have to follow the rules like everyone else. Look, I understand the owners of this establishment you mention in your speech don’t approve of gay and lesbian people getting married. They don’t have to approve of them. But if they are going to do business in this country, they have to follow the law against discrimination-just like the rest of us. If you don’t like the rules, don’t join the game. It’s that simple. Furthermore, I don’t understand why baking a cake for people whose conduct you find personally offensive is such a big deal. Heck, Frank, if all of us small church pastors refused to bury everyone whose conduct we didn’t approve of, the country would be ten feet deep in corpses! We are to live in the world and this is a part of it.
I am struggling, too, with your claim that Donald Trump is a champion (albeit an unlikely one) for religious freedom. What freedoms are we talking about here, Franklin? We are called to use our freedom to serve one another, to love our neighbours and not to ‘bite and devour one another’. Is the language of Donald Trump promoting this freedom? When he refers to woman as “dogs,” “fat pigs,” and “ugly” can we say that’s the freedom the Bible talks about? Or calling his opponents “idiots,” “losers,” “liars” and “frauds”? Is he not guilty of slander toward people with accusations of criminal conduct based on absolutely no evidence? He is our president but I must question your assertion that he is our champion for religious freedom.
You might be right about God putting Donald Trump in the White House-though your reasons for so believing are probably different from what I might conjecture. Still, how do you know that? Where did you get this info? I’m concerned that this pro-Trump movement is not standing on solid Biblical ground. What makes you right and another wrong if both are claiming to have heard from God? As I read the Scriptures it seems to me that God is more concerned about how men treat women in the workplace, how people of color are treated in the real estate market, how the hungry and homeless are cared for (or not), and less concerned if we bake a cake for a same sex couple to celebrate their wedding? Let’s continue this dialogue from a Biblical basis. How do you know? Show me how you get to your conclusion that baking a cake is a bigger deal than caring for the hungry and homeless?
Here’s the thing, Franklin. At the last judgment, Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about who they voted for, how many times they have been divorced, what their sexual history or orientation is or for whom they did or did not bake wedding cakes. He isn’t even concerned with how we treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, those deemed “least” among us. We all fall short of God’s ideal. We commit adultery and we abandon the least among us. We offend our enemies and we live in abundance while those around us starve. But God is interested in whether we are united in himself through his son. That’s where the compassion begins. That’s where the power to love our enemies and feed the hungry comes from. That’s where we can stand together and work through this as brothers in Christ despite our opinions on politics.
You know, Franklin, I would like to think that we are brothers. I would like to believe that we are on the same side. I would like to believe that, beneath our differences, we worship the same God and follow the same Savior. But quite honestly, I don’t recognize the Jesus I learned from my parents, my Sunday School teachers, my pastors or my years of study and reflection on the Bible in your angry, fearful rhetoric. Yes Franklin, your sound angry and fearful. In Jesus you are in love and there is no need for fear. Yes, I will answer your call for prayer. But I will be praying for the real victims of persecution-the victims of racial discrimination, sexual violence and bullying. I will answer your call to action. But I will be acting to establish health care as a right for all people; making the college campus and the workplace spaces where women and girls need not fear being called “pigs,” “dogs” or “ugly” nor will they need to fear rich, white celebrity males who feel entitled to grab them by the genitals. I will respond to your call for action by working for a society in which no one needs to worry about where she will sleep at night or where the next meal is coming from. You want prayer? You want action? You’ve got it. Please tell me you are praying for these things too!
Franklin, we have the scriptures, we have prayer, and we are learning every day what it means to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s all we need.
Christ’s servant and yours,

Mission Australia CEO on Australia Day


Historically, of course, Australia Day represents the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at what became known as Sydney Cove. The national public holiday marking this event is a fairly recent addition to the calendar, and many Australians will look forward to relaxing and enjoying a day off with friends and family.

And yet, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the legacy of the day remains strong. Tomorrow represents not a day of enjoyment but a reminder of the wrongs that were meted out by the British and the ongoing implications of our colonial past.

It remains a contentious day in the calendar of our history.

In modern Australia inequality and disadvantage are major problems within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities…read more here


Thoughts on Biblical Interpretation

To demonstrate differences in the presuppositions of readers, consider these following statements about the Bible, inspiration, biblical authority, and biblical interpretation:

Statement 1
The Bible is literally the Word of God. Scripture consists of the writings that were inspired by God, if not actually dictated by God to the biblical writers. The community of faith is to submit to biblical authority. Biblical interpretation is divine, expressing the will of God, not of human beings.

Statement 2
Creating Scripture is a human activity that takes place within communities of faith. Inspiration applies not only “to the origin of the text but to its transmission and interpretation among us.” The Bible is “inherently the live Word of God,” which recognizes that it is divine communication that has been “refracted” through many different authors who spoke from their own circumstances. Biblical authority is exercised in community rather than over it, and the community of faith’s participation is called for rather than its submission. Biblical interpretation is contextual and necessarily influenced by the human beings who do it.

First, “if social location shapes reading, then it is important to be honest and self-conscious about one’s social location in approaching any act of interpretation.”

Second, if multiple interpretations of a passage are possible, then we need to make explicit the reasons we have chosen a particular meaning.

Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation
Cheryl Anderson

(I thought thes comments made a lot of sense, thoughts?)

Letting Go. The Practice of Forgiving

I read this is a recent daily devotional from Richard Rohr. I thought it profound and practical enough to re-post it here.

Forgiveness is an act of letting go. When we forgive we do not forget the harm someone caused or say that it does not matter. But we release bitterness and hatred, freeing ourselves to move on and make choices grounded in our strength rather than victimisation. Forgiveness opens our closed hearts to give and receive love fully.

Jack Kornfield offers a wonderful meditative practice of forgiveness:

[Sit] comfortably. Allow your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven—not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. . . . Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.

Asking Forgiveness of Others
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion.” Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Offering Forgiveness to Yourself
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly and unknowingly.” Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”

Offering Forgiveness to Those Who Have Hurt or Harmed You
Recite: “There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed.” Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness whenever your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”

Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving-kindness. [1]

An Old Message, But A Good One



Alice Spring (Australia), 29 November 1986

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to be here today in Alice Springs and to meet so many of you, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia. I want to tell you right away how much the Church esteems and loves you, and how much she wishes to assist you in your spiritual and material needs.

  1. At the beginning of time, as God’s Spirit moved over the waters, he began to communicate something of his goodness and beauty to all creation. When God then created man and woman, he gave them the good things of the earth for their use and benefit; and he put into their hearts abilities and powers, which were his gifts. And to all human beings throughout the ages God has given a desire for himself, a desire which different cultures have tried to express in their own ways.
  2. As the human family spread over the face of the earth, your people settled and lived in this big country that stood apart from all the others. Other people did not even know this land was here; they only knew that somewhere in the southern oceans of the world there was “The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit”.

But for thousands of years you have lived in this land and fashioned a culture that endures to this day. And during all this time, the Spirit of God has been with you. Your “Dreaming”, which influences your lives so strongly that, no matter what happens, you rema,in for ever people of your culture, is your only way of touching the mystery of God’s Spirit in you and in creation. You must keep your striving for God and hold on to it in your lives.

  1. The rock paintings and the discovered evidence of your ancient tools and implements indicate the presence of your age-old culture and prove your ancient occupancy of this land.

Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear. Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost. Do you perhaps remember those words that Paul VI spoke to the aboriginal people during his visit to them in 1970? On that occasion he said: “We know that you have a life style proper to your own ethnic genius or culture – a culture which the Church respects and which she does not in any way ask you to renounce… Society itself is enriched by the presence of different cultural and ethnic elements. For us you and the values you represent are precious. We deeply respect your dignity and reiterate our deep affection for you”.

  1. For thousands of years this culture of yours was free to grow without interference by people from other places. You lived your lives in spiritual closeness to the land, with its animals, birds, fishes, waterholes, rivers, hills and mountains. Through your closeness to the land you touched the sacredness of man’s relationship with God, for the land was the proof of a power in life greater than yourselves.

You did not spoil the land, use it up, exhaust it. and then walk away from it. You realized that your land was related to the source of life.

The silence of the Bush taught you a quietness of soul that put you in touch with another world, the world of God’s Spirit. Your careful attention to the details of kinship spoke of your reverence for birth, life and human generation. You knew that children need to be loved, to be full of joy. They need a time to grow in laughter and to play, secure in the knowledge that they belong to their people.

You had a great respect for the need which people have for law, as a guide to living fairly with each other. So you created a legal system – very strict it is true – but closely adapted to the country in which you lived your lives. It made your society orderly. It was one of the reasons why you survived in this land.

You marked the growth of your young men and women with ceremonies of discipline that taught them responsibility as they came to maturity.

These achievements are indications of human strivings. And in these strivings you showed a dignity open to the message of God’s revealed wisdom to all men and women, which is the great truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. Some of the stories from your Dreamtime legends speak powerfully of the great mysteries of human life, its frailty, its need for help, its closeness to spiritual powers and the value of the human person. They are not unlike some of the great inspired lessons from the people among whom Jesus himself was born. It: is wonderful to see how people, as they accept the Gospei of Jesus, find points of agreement between their own traditions and those of Jesus and his people.
  2. The culture which this long and careful growth produced was not prepared for the sudden meeting with another people, with different customs and traditions, who came to your country nearly 200 years ago. They were different from Aboriginal people. Their traditions, the organization of their lives, and their attitudes to the land were quite strange to you. Their law too was quite different. These people had knowledge, money and power; and they brought with them some patterns of behaviour from which the Aboriginal people were unable to protect themselves.
  3. The effects of some of those forces are still active among you today. Many of you have been dispossessed of your traditional lands, and separated from your tribal ways, though some of you still have your traditional culture. Some of you are establishing Aboriginal communities in the towns and cities. For others there is still no real place for camp-fires and kinship observances except on the fringes of country towns. There, work is hard to find, and education in a different cultural background is difficult. The discrimination caused by racism is a daily experience.

You have learned how to survive, whether on your own lands, or scattered among the towns and cities. Though your difficulties are not yet over, you must learn to draw on the endurance which your ancient ceremonies have taught you. Endurance brings with it patience; patience helps you to find the way ahead, and gives you courage for your journey.

  1. Take heart from the fact that many of your languages are still spoken and that you still possess your ancient culture. You have kept your sense of brotherhood. If you stay closely united, you are like a tree standing in the middle of a bush-fire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn. The time for this rebirth is now!
  2. We know that during the last two hundred years certain people tried to understand you, to learn about you, to respect your ways and to honour you as persons. These men and women, as you soon realized, were different from others of their race. They loved and cared for the indigenous people. They began to share with you their stories of God, helped you cope with sickness, tried to protect you from ill-treatment. They were honest with you, and showed you by their lives how they tried to avoid the bad things in their own culture. These people were not always successful, and there were times when they did not fully understand you. But they showed you good will and friendship. They came from many different walks of life. Some were teachers and doctors and other professional people; some were simple folk. History will remember the good example of their charity and fraternal solidarity.

Among those who have loved and cared for the indigenous people, we especially recall with profound gratitude all the missionaries of the Christian faith. With immense generosity they gave their lives in service to you and to your forebears. They helped to educate the Aboriginal people and offered health and social services. Whatever their human frailty, and whatever mistakes they may have made, nothing can ever minimize the depht of their charity. Nothing can ever cancel out their greatest contribution, which was to proclaim to you Jesus Christ and to establish his Church in your midst.

  1. From the earliest times men like Archbishop Polding of Sydney opposed the legal fiction adopted by European settlers that this land was terra nullius – nobody’s country. He strongly pleaded for the rights of the Aboriginal inhabitants to keep the traditional lands on which their whole society depended. The Church still supports you today.

Let it not be said that the fair and equitable recognition of Aboriginal rights to land is discrimination. To call for the acknowledgment of the land rights of people who have never surrendered those rights is not discrimination. Certainly, what has been done cannot be undone. But what can now be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow.

Christian people of good will are saddened to realize – many of them only recently – for how long a time Aboriginal people were transported from their homelands into small areas or reserves where families were broken up, tribes split apart, children orphaned and people forced to live like exiles in a foreign country.

The reserves still exist today, and require a just and proper settlement that still lies unachieved. The urban problems resulting from the transportation and separation of people still have to be addressed, so that these people may make a new start in life with each other once again.

  1. The establishment of a new society for Aboriginal people cannot go forward without just and mutually recognized agreements with regard to these human problems, even though their causes lie in the past. The greatest value to be achieved by such agreements, which must be implemented without causing new injustices, is respect for the dignity and growth of the human person. And you, the Aboriginal people of this country and its cities, must show that you are actively working for your own dignity of life. On your part, you must show that you too can walk tall and command the respect which every human being expects to receive from the rest of the human family.
  2. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks all languages. It esteems and embraces all cultures. It supports them in everything human and, when necessary, it purifies them. Always and everywhere the Gospel uplifts and enriches cultures with the revealed message of a loving and merciful God.

That Gospel now invites you to become, through and through, Aboriginal Christians. It meets your deepest desires. You do not have to be people divided into two parts, as though an Aboriginal had to borrow the faith and life of Christianity, like a hat or a pair of shoes, from someone else who owns them. Jesus calls you to accept his words and his values into your own culture. To develop in this way will make you more than ever truly Aboriginal.

The old ways can draw new life and strength from the Gospel. The message of Jesus Christ can lift up your lives to new heights, reinforce all your positive values and add many others, which only the Gospel in its originality proposes. Take this Gospel into your own language and way of speaking; let its spirit penetrate your communities and determine your behaviour towards each other, let it bring new strength to your stories and your ceremonies. Let the Gospel come into your hearts and renew your personal lives. The Church invites you to express the living word of Jesus in ways that speak to your Aboriginal minds and hearts. All over the world people worship God and read his word in their own language, and colour the great signs and symbols of religion with touches of their own traditions. Why should you be different from them in this regard, why should you not be allowed the happiness of being with God and each other in Aboriginal fashion?

  1. As you listen to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, seek out the best things of your traditional ways. If you do, you will come to realize more and more your great human and Christian dignity. Let your minds and hearts be strengthened to begin a new life now. Past hurts cannot be healed by violence, nor are present injustices removed by resentment. Your Christian faith calls you to become the best kind of Aboriginal people you can be. This is possible only if reconciliation and forgiveness are part of your lives. Only then will you find happiness. Only then will you make your best contribution to all your brothers and sisters in this great nation. You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.

In the new world that is emerging for you, you are being called to live fully human and Christian lives, not to die of shame and sorrow. But you know that to fulfil your role you need a new heart. You will already feel courage rise up inside you when you listen to God speaking to you in these words of the Prophets:

“Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine. Do not be afraid, for I am with you”.

And again:

“I am going to… gather you together… and bring you home to your own land… I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… You shall be my people and I will be your God”.

  1. With you I rejoice in the hope of God’s gift of salvation, which has its beginnings here and now, and which also depends on how we behave towards each other, on what we put up with, on what we do, on how we honour God and love all people.

Dear Aboriginal people: the hour has come for you to take on new courage and new hope. You are called to remember the past, to be faithful to your worthy traditions, and to adapt your living culture whenever this is required by your own needs and those of your fellowman. Above all you are called to open your hearts ever more to the consoling, purifying and uplifting message of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died so that we might all have life, and have it to the full.

© Copyright 1986 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Guidelines For Dialogue

I was challenged some weeks ago by a friend who contacted me privately and said she was no longer wanting to see my Facebook posts. It was not the topics, she said, it was the tone of the conversation contained in the comments, I interpreted that it was not only friends comments that offended but mine as well. It did give me reason to pause and look at my use of sarcasm, bighting back, being defensive etc. I do think I do ‘pretty well’, but can always improve. I do, however, feel that people can tend to shy away from confronting conversations. There is an argument that says Christians should not be arguing about ‘us’ in the public as it shows an image of disunity. Maybe. But I also feel (and have had friends who are not followers of Christ say) that its refreshing for them to see open frank, honest and respectful disagreements between believers. Its obvious we don’t all agree on every topic, lets create safe places of respect to dialogue, argue debate. Heck, we have plenty to talk about! Look at these three hot topics just from the past 12 months; 1) Aboriginal Racism (Adam Goodes, Remote Community closures); 2) Immigration/Refugees (Asylum seeker debate, Reclaim Australia, Islamic issues) and for number 3)…Gay Marriage and all the associated issues that go with that topic.

I attended a meeting with Dave Andrews around his book “The Jihad of Jesus“. He spoke of the many difficult moments of dialogue in certain groups. Dave handed out to our gathering a A4 sheet titled “Guidelines For Dialogue”, I thought it was worth a share.

Guidelines For Dialogue

We agree to;

Make an effort to relate respectfully to all people regardless of their faith.

Listen to what other people have to say.

Not tell other people what they believe, let them tell us.

And respect other’s views, even if we disagree with their views.

Be honest and sensitive in what we say.

Speak positively of our faith, not negatively about other’s

And not try to force other people to agree with our views.

Not treat people as a spokesperson for their faith

Nor judge people by what other people of their faith do.

Share our faith with sincerity, transparency, mercy and compassion.

Acknowledge both similarities and differences between our faiths.

Serve without strings attached.

Not exploit the vulnerability of people

Witness faithfully, but never ever try to induce or coerce a conversion.

Respect the choices others may make.

Accept them without resentment.

Encourage positive relationships between faith communities.

Encourage constructive relationships with the wider community.

Use our wisdom, knowledge, skills and resources to serve people.

Discuss problems that arise face to face to solve them peacefully.

Dave Andrews