STATEMENT ON RECONCILIATION.
Jesus simply says, "By this shall all people know you as my disciples, by the way you love one another" Jn.13.35 Paul teases out this idea when he says that, "Love withstands anger and forgives offences. It does not take delight in the wrong but rejoices with the truth". 1 Cor.13. 5,6. John Paul II specified what this means in an Australian context in an address to the Aboriginal people at Alice Springs in 1986. He said: " 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." Reconciliation with Aboriginal people is not a question of "bleeding hearts" but a Christian imperative.
The Pallottines, a group of Brothers and Priests who have been privileged to work with Aboriginal people for the last 100 years, have endorsed the principles and practical measures contained in this statement. These insights on reconciliation are offered from their experience.
All cultures and societies have in and out groups. Those from a different group are inevitably viewed with suspicion. Where these initial attitudes are strengthened by an outlook based on the presumed superior self-image of the new group, antagonism, disrespect and even worse manifestations will result.
The Europeans who settled the Australian continent were people struggling to come to grips with a new environment. Subtlety of approach was a luxury few could indulge. It was inevitable that there was an incomplete grasp of Aboriginal language, approach to land and cross-cultural exchanges. We can hardly claim such mitigating circumstances in our relationships with Aboriginal people at the start of the new millennium.
It was inevitable that profound changes would take place in Aboriginal society. Language would be under immense pressure to survive. The binding to land and its spiritual significance would be pressured by a new concept of economic use of resources. The intricate subtleties of relationships in Aboriginal society would be barely known, let alone grasped. Cultural clashes are typical of colonised lands. We cannot deny the history of European colonisation of Australia. Australia is a vastly different land environmentally, economically and demographically from the place where Governor Phillip landed in 1788.
We can rightly plead it was not our doing. But there are still remedies that are both appropriate and possible to further reconciliation:
Mike McMahon, SAC (Regional