National Reconciliation Week 2014 is fast approaching. It’s that time of the year when we recognise the achievements and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the Australia we know today, and when we celebrate how far we’ve come in working together to build better relationships with each other.
It’s not broadly recognised, but the concept of working together for better relationships isn’t new. In fact, Aboriginal and non-Indigenous Australians have been working together to build better relationships and mutual respect since the days of first settlement.
Many of the new settlers to Australia who sought to build better relationships with Aboriginal people were motivated out of their Christian faith. While the history of interaction between Christianity and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia isn’t pretty – there are inspirational stories to be found in our past and heroes of faith and justice to be discovered.
Rev. John Saunders, in his sermon on 14th October 1838 urged his congregation at Bathurst Street Baptist church to realise “that Christians should think rightly, speak rightly, and act rightly” in respect to justice for first Australians.
In more recent history, a group of key Christian denominations known as the Australian National Council of Churches worked closely with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (now Reconciliation Australia) and other communities of faith to establish the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993. This yearly event was broadened to include all communities across Australia in 1996 to become the National Reconciliation Week (NRW) we celebrate today.
People of faith have been engaging and seeking to make positive impact in reconciliation for a long time. This NRW, I invite Australians of faith to revisit their radical roots and seek to think rightly, speak rightly and act rightly for our time. This NRW, I invite you to do two things:
- I encourage you to put Week of Prayer for Reconciliation on your church calendar; hold a service for reconciliation that honors the journey we’ve been on; invite your community and celebrate with a morning or afternoon tea. Register your event on Reconciliation Australia’s website to join a community of Australians across the country who are celebrating National Reconciliation Week.
- I encourage you to add your prayers for reconciliation to this blog’s comments section over the next few weeks as a way of honoring this important journey and expressing your personal commitment to building stronger relationships with our fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians. Your prayers will be included in a National Book of Prayer entitled Reconciliation Well, which is a proud joint initiative of World Vision Australia and Reconciliation Australia. Over the next two years, churches and communities across Australia will have the opportunity to read and contribute to the prayer book, encouraging and strengthen relationships within local communities, as it travels the country. Feel free to add your first name and home town to your online prayer.
God Bless and Happy NRW.