The journey to reconciliation is always fraught; facing hard truths, revisiting pain; naming what you want; letting go of what you want; feeling the temptation to defer; trusting the other; being vulnerable; doubts about the benefits; having to commit without really knowing the future.
Most of the time we settle for some kind of accommodation, rather than a deep reconciliation. And we wonder why we don’t have a sense of a new beginning!
No wonder in terms of the place of the First Peoples, we’re not there yet.
Yet the theme of reconciliation week this year is glaringly obvious: “We are all in this together”.
My brother, Geoff, worked in community development in Clermont in Central Queensland for some time in the 1980s. The land rights movement was starting to heat up. He told me the story of a conversation he had with a local Indigenous elder. “What do you think of the coming of the white man, Horrie?” Geoff asked. Horrie replied, “You white fellas, you’ll come and go, we’ll still be here!”
Certainly, a view with millennia in mind, not decades or even centuries.
Even if Horrie’s prediction proves to be true, for the foreseeable future, we’re not going to be apart from each other, and we’ve got some outstanding matters to deal with, here and now.
So, despite all the challenges above, we might as well get on with it.
I wonder if one of the underlying issues is that the benefits haven’t really been articulated. For Christians, simple fairness and justice should be enough of a benefit for us to support reconciliation; and that’s true. Fairness and justice are enough of a reason—the churches are committed to reconciliation for that reason alone.
But there’s more; Second Peoples’ love for Australia doesn’t have to be over and against the First Peoples’.
This is not a competition.
Can’t we see this journey as one which enhances and deepens our love for each other in this wide brown land? That it has tremendous possibilities to broaden our appreciation of the gift that this land is for us? That our own horizons might be broadened?
Indigenous leaders have proved themselves to be pragmatic and open about this journey; can we rise to the opportunity that’s before us?