Aboriginal leader and Christian minister Ray Minniecon is in Glasgow, Scotland for the UN Climate Summit COP26 and he’s keeping a diary …
Diary entry #4: Sunday 31 October 2021
Today (Sunday) I attended the morning Church service at St Silas Church. The Rector of St Silas, Rev. Martin Ayres and his wife, have graciously allowed me to stay in their parents flat during COP26.
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Inside the chapel, I felt welcomed and blessed by meeting God’s big global family. And also I felt warmly welcomed by the local traditional custodians of this country. The Scottish elders who were in the church and who warmly welcomed me. I now felt relaxed in my new surroundings and at peace meeting with this new family. The service reminded me of my home Church, St. John’s in Glebe. Very family-focused and friendly and relaxed.
Rev. Martin’s message was on a passage from the Sermon on the Mount. As I listened, I was struck by the fact that the message Jesus preached from the Sermon on the Mount was so relevant to our modern-day climate change challenges. He spoke from Matthew 6:19-32. His three points were. 1. Let the Father’s rewards be our rewards. 2. Let the Father’s care be your security. 3. Let the Father’s kingdom be your ambition.
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One of the most poignant parts of the message that helped me see Jesus Sermon on the Mount through contemporary eyes was the first part in his sermon: He expounded:
(1) Two treasures in verses 19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I realised that this is what is happening in our world today, especially to our people. Can we continue to allow ourselves to be seduced by greed and materialism when we continue to support extractive capitalism? These political decisions can lull us into a false reality that makes us think that this is where we believe that our future ‘treasure’ lies. Extractive capitalism doesn’t seem to care about its powerful destructive forces on Indigenous people’s land, culture and heritage. As Indigenous People’s, we live at the forefront of these decisions and activities and we are witnessing our livelihood being destroyed by the “moths and vermin” of extractive capitalism which continues to destroy our culture and our heritage daily. We are constantly suffering from these political decisions.
I felt welcomed and blessed by meeting God’s big global family
(2) Two Visions. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c]your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Jesus is challenging us about what we see as the most important thing that attracts our attention. Do we see cultural heritage as important? Or do we see the destruction of our cultural sites as important? Are we seeing what is happening to God’s creation? Or are our “eyes so unhealthy’ that we are “full of darkness?” One of the challenges to the consequences of extractive capitalism is that we can be deceived by the ‘promise’ of short-term gains and benefits from mining.
On the other hand, we know full well that we don’t have any veto powers over these ‘deals’ or in most cases, the deals are done without Prior and Informed Consent which is a specific right that is recognised in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It was designed to allow us to decide to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect our land, our culture or our community.
Our “spiritual eyes need to be healthy” to work through so many challenging issues when it comes to our present and future dreams and aspirations.
(3) Two Masters: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus also reminded us that we can’t serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth creation. This is the nub of our global climate crisis. We cannot continue to rely on a future that is built on extractive capitalism where Mother earth’s resources are continually mined for monetary gain, mainly for the benefit of mining conglomerates and their shareholders.
Mother earth was created for all humanity to enjoy. Yet we continue to acknowledge that we need more mining extracting of our lands. Sadly, through this master, our Creator seems to be less important.
His message gave me a deeply needed dose of confidence!
After Church, I went to the conference site to finalise my registration. It was a long queue! I really think that they should have organized this process better. I must confess I was exhausted by the end of the day and went straight to sleep!
Ancient of Days. Thank you for your faithful servants who study and explain the simplicity of your multifaceted Word. Thank You for opening my eye to see the world through Jesus Sermon on the Mount. I am here at this conference to offer my feeble voice to these giants that are in our lands. Your word today has given me a little more confidence to see Your Creation through Your eyes. But we, Indigenous Peoples, are witnessing daily, the destruction of our lands, waters, cultures, families and heritage. As the days here at COP26 gets more complicated, help our Indigenous peoples give our strongest voice to the things that You gave us as an inheritance. We are seeking Your help to protect and preserve for our children’s children, our lands, our culture, our language, our wisdom and knowledge from destructive powerful forces. Ancient of Days help us care for Your creation, and our families especially our Elders. We ask these mercies in the name of Your Son, Jesus, our ancestor in faith.
Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of south-east Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He leads Scarred Tree, an Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander ministry based in St John’s Glebe, Sydney.