Common Grace invites Australian Christians to unite for a 'Season of Healing Country'
This year, Christian social justice movement Common Grace will bring Christians together for a special “Season of Healing Country” that will extend from National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) until NAIDOC Week (4 July – 11 July), says CEO Brooke Prentis.
Common Grace has always marked these significant calender weeks in some way – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice was one of just four key campaign areas established at the organisation’s launch in 2014. Previous Reconciliation and/or NAIDOC Week themes have included: ‘Reconciliation as Walking Together’, ‘Always Was Always Will Be’, ‘Reconciliation as Truth and Action’, ‘Voice Treaty Truth’, ‘Reconciliation as Friendship’ and ‘Because of Her We Can’.
But this is the first time that the Common Grace team have brought the two weeks together for a “season” with an extended focus of healing Country.
So what does “healing Country?” mean and what will this season look like for participants?
“Country is all lands, waters, sky, trees, plants, animals, birds, fish, rocks, mountains, and all peoples,” Prentis often says, when giving an Acknowledgement of Country.
“Country is all of God’s wondrous creation. It is a sense of identity, belonging, groundedness and home. We live on wounded, blood-stained country. Jesus understands, having shared our suffering and pain. Jesus provides hope for country to be healed, restored, loved and set free. Jesus calls us as his hands and feet to take an active role in healing country by protecting and restoring God’s beautiful earth.”
In order to examine the idea of healing Country, Common Grace will guide Christians in reflecting on and taking action in two key areas: ‘treaty’ for National Reconciliation Week and ‘truth telling’ for NAIDOC Week.
Focus on Treaty and Truth-telling
The Common Grace team explain the focus on treaty.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been calling for Treaty for decades and have been waiting on the unfulfilled promise for Treaty since 1988 when Prime Minister Bob Hawke promised a Treaty after receiving the Barunga Statement. We’ve been singing with Yothu Yindi about this broken promise since 1991! In the 2017 Statement from the Heart, the request for Treaty was made again,” Common Grace’s website states.
“Australia has international examples to learn from where countries like New Zealand, Canada, and the United States of America have made treaty agreements with their First Nations peoples since the 18th and 19th centuries. Australia has also made over 2,000 treaties internationally but has never established a Treaty with our First nations peoples. We pray and call for immediate action for internationally recognised Treaty and treaties with Aboriginal peoples.”
Likewise, there is a lot of passion behind Common Grace’s focus on truth-telling.
“The true history of these lands now called Australia has been pushed under the carpet for far too long. There has never been a National Truth Telling Commission,” Common Grace says.
“Aunty Jean Phillips and Brooke Prentis, supported by Common Grace and the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand on 26 January 2019 held a Truth, Justice, and Conciliation Commission to provide an example and model for Australia.”
“Through this process we learnt the importance and necessity of national truth telling for healing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will continue to suffer when the reality of what our people went through and are still going through is not acknowledged, and is even completely denied. All Australians will suffer through a lack of truth telling about our shared history. We pray and call for a National Truth Telling Commission, shedding light on the true history of Australia.”
Common Grace has put together a toolkit of resources for churches for National Reconciliation Week, to be used on Sunday 30 May. The resource has been put together by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders. It includes materials for worship, prayer, Bible readings, Acknowledgement of Country, children’s resources and sermon resources. It is also adaptable for school chapel services during the week.
Other events throughout the Season of Healing Country will include the launch of a video about Treaty, followed by a Facebook Live Q&A with Brooke Prentis (7:30pm, 27 May)
And, on 8 June, Aunty Rev Dr Denise Champion will launch her new book Anaditj: The way things are with an interactive Q&A with Prentis. This is sure to be an exciting conversation by two amazing women theologians and through listening will bring Truth Telling and Healing Country.
Common Grace will also launch a petition and their annual appeal during this time, and are working on Children’s Resources to help kids engage with National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week at a level that makes sense to them.
To learn more about Common Grace’s Season of Healing Country, go to commongrace.org.au/treaty_and_truth_telling_for_healing_country .