This is part 2 in a 7-part series “7 Reflections on Reconciliation”, for Reconciliation Week, based on interviews with four Christians from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds.
Interviews by Ben Clarke, Supporter Engagement Officer - TEAR’s work with First Peoples.
Mark Kickett, a Noongar man from Noongar Whadjuk and Balardong country, is the State Development and Outreach Coordinator for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in South Australia.
Amos 5 says: “Let justice roll down like streams of living water…”. There is a sense of things that need to be redeemed and need to be righted. Reconciliation is about justice. It is about righting the wrongs of the past.
Paul writes very clearly about reconciliation. He talks about justice as an extension of the work of Jesus who reconciled the world to himself. He says “Whosoever may come can receive this wonderful great gift…” For Paul, reconciliation is embedded in the Gospel context.
Biblical reconciliation is actually a whole new way of thinking. Because of the Gospel I think in ways that I never thought before. It is a paradigm shift.
Christians really need to understand that the call to be involved in reconciliation is not an “If you would like please” or “Would you like to…”. When we became reconciled to God we are in the system! God has brought us to be co-workers with him.
Tanya Riches is a Christian academic whose PhD focused on worship and social justice initiatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders.
Reconciliation is something that is deeply embedded in the Christian message. The fact is that we have this narrative where God gave up power and came down as a little baby - a story that has literally changed the world. It has spoken across cultures for thousands of years. Christians are the stewards of the story that Jesus died on the cross on our behalf to reconcile us to God and that is such an important message with such applicability to Australian life.
Rhanee Tsetsakos, an Adnyamathanha woman from Port Augusta with close family ties to country and family in the northern Flinders Ranges - Adnyamathanha country, works for the Uniting Church in South Australia.
The ultimate story of reconciliation is Jesus's sacrifice to reconcile us to God. In the Gospel of John there is no emphasis on Jesus “sacrificing” his life for our sins in there, rather it is about Jesus “giving”. There is a play on the words there. John tells us about Jesus “giving his life to God” for God to do whatever he wanted to do with that life. It wasn't about the sacrificing and giving “up”. It was giving “to”.
In order for that ultimate reconciliation to come about we need to understand that it requires a willingness to give of yourself. Reconciliation can't just come from one side. And it can't just be seen as like something that you have to do. It's got to be something that you want to do because you know the ultimate reward that's going to come in the end. It requires faith that reconciliation is not just going to be good for you but good for the whole.
Steve Bevis, a TEAR Board member, is the Senior Minister at Alice Springs Uniting Church.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus live out the grace and forgiveness of God in his encounters with people.
The most powerful mirror a human being can look into is the face of Jesus Christ and his story that involves scars, pain and suffering, as well as responsibility. Yet, when we look into his face, we are liberated.
One of the things I have learned in reading the Bible with Aboriginal friends in recent years is to see the hints of reconciliation that exist with the many encounters with marginalised people who are seen to be outside the mainstream of God’s story. These stories offer a challenge back to God's people. There is something spiritual in those encounters that lead me to reflect on being a participant in reconciliation.
NOTE: Not everyone is comfortable with the word reconciliation. Reconciliation talks of returning to a place when relationship was good and that has never been the case in Australia. Most people, however, continue to support the aims of the reconciliation movement.