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Uniting Church President: remembering the past for a peaceful future

Uniting Church President Rev Gregor Henderson
The President of the Uniting Church has today urged the nation to celebrate the privilege of being an Australian, while encouraging reflection on our bloodstained history.

Rev. Gregor Henderson said that Australia Day was the perfect time to acknowledge the first peoples of the land and to extend the hand of peace and friendship between all Australians.

“This is a great country, a lucky country, a rich country; a country which attracts people to its shores from all corners of the globe, due to the ‘fair go’ we afford to all who seek opportunity here,” Mr Henderson said.

“The Aussie spirit can be seen all over the world, as we give of ourselves to working in other countries, to providing aid, to celebrating humanity through our generosity and hopefulness.

“But we have a shameful and bloody past in our treatment of Indigenous Australians, beginning with the arrival of the first fleet and perpetuated by many who followed.

“So while we commemorate Australia’s European history on 26 January, we must also recommit to the ongoing process of reconciliation between the first peoples and those who have come after.

“We know that we have seriously and profoundly hurt Indigenous communities, who continue to lose their language, their culture and their identities.

“However, the Australian Government has taken steps towards a better future for Indigenous people. We strongly support increased attention to reconciliation and ask the Government to continue to focus on that in 2009.”

Mr Henderson also acknowledged Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January), as an opportunity to remember the horrific suffering of Jewish people during WWII and to acknowledge that racism is still a force for evil in today’s world.

“How horrible if we were to forget the depravity of that moment in history,” he said. “Yet still today genocide rears its ugly head – in places like the Congo, Sudan and not so long ago in the Balkans.”

Mr Henderson called on Australians to remember their histories – both the good and the bad – and to take those lessons into the future.

“The Christian faith calls us to repent for past sins and to redress past wrongs.

“We belong to a country that is remarkably peaceful and yet many of us have arrived out of situations of war and terror.

“Let us therefore acknowledge our pasts, and those of our fellow Australians, and work together for a future of harmony and reconciliation.”

Photo : Uniting Church President Rev Gregor Henderson