COMMUNITY is such a strong word depicting God’s design, for his will is that we would commune in unity. Sadly, our human history has shown us that a pinch of evil in the stew of life spoils the broth of peace and safety of a life lived together.
We in Australia have no unique problem. Many, many countries share our heritage over time. And it’s not just this period of time that this phenomenon of conquest has taken place. Our ‘settlers’ invaded this land and conquered it in the name of Western civilisation — it’s such a pity that Western civilisation’s way is not always civil. What makes matters worst is not the genocide that took place, but the fact that Aborigines had lived this land for many millennia. The people God placed here were ripped from their land by successive generations of colonials — and even post-Federation we have, from time to time, acted as if we were owners because we had the power and technology.
Given the circumstances of the discovery of this Great Southern Land, however, it’s unlikely that our Indigenous brothers and sisters would have welcomed us on this land without resistance. But not being knowledgeable in anthropology means I cannot know for sure. I wonder if there was a peaceful way of settling; possibly not.
Whatever the past, we sit in our place and time in history. We ought to lament that outcomes for the Indigenous are still such a far cry from the outcomes we expect. We still find racism is rife, just it’s driven down into the fractious fissures of society. And we’re not far enough on from the atrocities of the Stolen Generations to enjoy any real comfort of conscience. Indeed, the Stolen Generations rival what we Christians appreciate as the 70-year exile of God’s people to Babylon in 586 BCE – 518 BCE. That’s both shocking and appalling. And our biggest sin is, as a society, we don’t pay enough respect to the Indigenous for the brokenness inflicted on them. Yet we might fairly say “well, it’s not my fault.” The only trouble with that is, without the piquing of awareness we’re sure to repeat the violation. But to #changethedate might afford us a better chance at a fresh start.
Where does this leave us? Ought we not be able to celebrate our National identity — one that so many of really do love — especially as we’re so far away from the apparent crises of the world? Well, because we enjoy the freedom we do, we have such a say over our own consciences, and we do just that. For my mind I can’t see anything wrong with Australians celebrating our National identity so long as there’s a good appreciation of our irrefutable history and our present dilemma.
Until we can celebrate in oneness, empathising with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, our national day will always be sullied. But the fact that we’re willing to celebrate in oneness now — given that we do empathise — and are prepared to lend our strength and resolve to the work of reconciliation — means we can celebrate in the appropriate way now.
If we’re to celebrate our National identity — and we should — we ought to mourn the ugliness of past and the dilemmas of present.
God help us celebrate everything that makes us a National community, and nothing that divides us.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.