From Dr Sureka Goringe, National Director, UnitingWorld
There’s change in the air. Maybe you feel it. For the longest time, an elephant in the room of Australia’s contributions to end world poverty has been the question: what about the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here at home?
This was a challenge and reminder posed to the whole UnitingWorld team by Professor Anne Pattel-Gray, UCA theologian and Aboriginal leader, who was a special guest presenter at our annual team week in February.
Her words were not bitter or angry, they were deeply introspective, herself having travelled to do mission and community development work among Dalit peoples in India. While there, she was struck by her relative privilege, and realised how difficult it can be when you are well-meaning, but ultimately have little connection to people’s unique experiences of poverty, racism and injustice.
It led her to focus on what Christianity has to say about the value and dignity of all life, and the call on Christians to be a “transforming presence” from inside the dominant system – to turn oppression and domination into justice.
It’s a calling to work that has no borders or postcodes because it’s about who we are.
Her words made me think of you, and the thousands of people touched by this mission we do in partnership with the global church. In our constantly changing world, we can’t pit local and global issues against each other – we need to address suffering and injustice wherever we can, with whatever skills we can bring.
The young leaders who attended the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit understand this, and their commitment to embedding justice for First Peoples within their vision of our region is truly inspiring.
Our international partners understand it too, always eager to meet, honour and gain the wisdom of the First Peoples who cared for this land for millennia.
We’ve started a conversation within UnitingWorld about how to strengthen links between our partners and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and embed a First Nations perspective into our work.
Change is happening in our government too, with the search for an Ambassador for First Nations People going on as I write.
As the national conversation about Voice, Treaty and Truth goes forward, I hope and pray that whatever happens, we Christians would strive to be that “transforming presence” alongside First Peoples that Professor Pattel‑Gray described.
When I asked her what gives her hope for the change she works for, she gave my whole team this encouragement: “my hope comes from the Creator, who has the power to transform people and communities.”