'This is not about politics ... It is about people'

Listening to First Nations Christian leaders

This NAIDOC Week, we will hear from several First Nations Christian leaders. 

Today, we listen to Rev. Canon A/Prof Glenn Loughrey. 

Rev. Canon A/Prof Glenn Loughrey is a Wiradjuri man who now lives and works in Melbourne. He is Vicar at St Oswald’s Glen Iris; the first Indigenous Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral; the Current Chair of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Council (NATSIAC); and an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University. Glenn is also a practising artist, who has been a finalist in five major art prizes, and an author and co-author of three books.

Here’s what Glenn shares with Eternity readers.

If you could say anything to Australian Christians right now, what would you say? 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation of transformational forgiveness offered to those who benefit directly from the dispossession of our country, culture and spirituality. The Christian church in all its forms benefits directly from the act of colonialism and are asked to consider their response to the invitation in the Statement. As people who benefit from the act of transformational forgiveness contained in the three days of Easter, those comprising the church are asked to accept this invitation and its accompanying offer of forgiveness from First Nations people as an opportunity for redemption, beginning again in this place.

“The world for those to come must be different for my Elders.”

The church has been a double-edged sword for First Nations people – having been a tool of oppression and yet it’s also part of many people’s faith. How do you reconcile that as an Aboriginal Christian?

This is a complex issue mired in the integral role in the Western European appropriation of Christianity played as a universal indicator of humanness central to coloniality beginning in the 15th century. There is no easy position here.

For those of us who walk in both places, it remains a process of daily negotiation with the protocols essential to both Aboriginality and Christianity. In other words, sometimes I find myself leaning into my Christian self and sometimes into my Aboriginal self. As I grow older, the latter has become the norm.

The theme for NAIDOC Week this year is ‘For Our Elders’. What does that mean to you?

For me, this is remembering those who went before us who were deeply traumatised by the world they found themselves in, often irrevocably disconnected from country, language, culture and spirituality, forced into a way of being that never sat right.

For me, that is my father and mother, my grandmother, great-grandfather, and others who were never given the right to be fully human and fully alive. It is why I continue to strive for our people. The world for those to come must be different for my Elders.

Is there anything else that you would like to say to Australian Christians?

Only that we are to remember this is not about politics, payback, social justice issues or legal questions.

It is about people.

People who were invaded, suffered violence designed to eradicate them, were assimilated and taken from their families and only in 1967 were they counted, but not included, as equals in society. This is about the continuing deficit mindset society has towards us, allowing them to invade our countries a second time in 2007 with the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which continues to decide who is and is not able to manage their own money and lives, taking away children at greater rates than ever before, locking our children up at unreasonable rates and continuing to see us unequal.

This is about people.

This is about me because I am yet to be recognised as your equal in either society or church.

This is my daily experience.