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“We must be the reconciliation we seek”

Meeting people who give real hope is so uplifting.

by Bishop Philip Huggins

Last week involved two profoundly moving experiences.

The first was a meeting with a wonderful woman who is completing a PhD in contextual theology: It is on the early 19th century period of interactions between her First Nation people and arriving newcomers.

She is recovering a story which includes much mutual sympathy and kindness along with confusions, misunderstandings and much else.

Important as this is, what was most moving was her Spirit.

This was summed up when at the end of our conversation, she quietly said: “We must be the reconciliation we seek”.

Her presence conveyed an integration of this aspiration with her way of being.

In a sentence, she encapsulated the particular vocation of Jesus disciples at this moment in time, whatever our cultural background.

I was able to pass on her inspiration at the other moving experience last week. This was in a cemetery, after a church service for a young man of a South Sudanese refugee family who died tragically.

I passed her inspiration on to one of our priests, who helped with the service.

He is from a different tribal background to that of the dear family who were grieving for their beloved son.

Over time, this priest’s way of being has earned the trust of those with an eye to see.

He has been a peacemaker, even through the abuse he and his family have received.

He has been abused, in my painful recollection, by some other South Sudanese of a different tribal background.

He has also been abused by some members of the broader Australian community who are meant to help people seeking refuge in our country.

In fact, this blessed priest was abused and threatened in the petrol station next to the Church, as he arrived to contribute to a short film we made there. This powerful short message in late 2018 was in response then to the negative stereotyping by some political leaders of the South Sudanese community!

As we walked away on Saturday from the graveyard in light rain, I told this wonderful man of my meeting with this equally wonderful Aboriginal woman. I said to him that he embodied just what I had seen in her as she spoke.

“We must be the reconciliation we seek”.

It was so uplifting to meet these two and appreciate their quiet, crucial leadership.

Their stories are worth passing on, yes?

Especially at this pandemic time of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, we need people who embody a future some might think is impossible.

Read "CoronaVirus Through the Lens of an Optimist"

That is, of our one human family actually realising there is no “Us “and “Them”.

Just an “Us”, all made in the divine image, as our beautiful planet spins in the vastness of a universe, the end of which is still to be found.

All we have is a divine gift from the Creator.

The fact that we are all made in the divine image means many divisive things are a cruel folly: racism, tribalism, everything that fosters the illusion of an ‘Us ‘versus ‘Them’.

There is a saying: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

The saying refers to the potency of historical and contemporary cultural attitudes, notwithstanding strategies such as those to prevent racial, tribal and other forms of discrimination.

We are all on a journey to cultivate a better culture, more congruent with the divine purpose.

To this end, we need more wonderful people like those I met this week.

We must be the reconciliation we seek.

July 2020

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