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Monday, 4 June 2012

Bridge building

I always knew that undertaking Aboriginal Studies was going to provide a few challenges. Apart from anything else, moving to a new discipline, faculty or university involves learning new house styles, narrative tones, and so on. For reasons best known to itself, Charles Darwin University uses its variation on a form of referencing called Harvard, which I have long considered to be an abomination that would make a cast iron statue weep. But I have to, as I have often told sports teams I have coached, suck it up. Or build a bridge and get over it (without the expletives added that I saw on a bumper sticker recently). I’ve managed to fail one assignment so far — but only one out of about seven, and that was because I really have no idea about PowerPoint — beyond what we do on a Sunday morning. Footnotes in PowerPoint? You gotta be kidding!

Far more challenging, though has been the sad history and sociology with which I have to wrestle. I knew it would be — I have read enough post-colonial theory to know what to expect — but to be constantly immersed in the mistakes of our past is to be emotionally drained. Despite the protestations of John Howard and his chosen historians, the weight of evidence (not only in Australia) is that there is much in our history for which we must always remain deeply, deeply sorry.

We will not be the first or last to carry fault in our DNA. My favourite theologian, quoted in these pages from time to time, is Jürgen Moltmann. As a young man Moltmann had to wrestle with the terrible knowledge that his people and his fellow German Christians were complicit in one of the greatest crimes of human history, the holocaust. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

There is no real way to compare crime size. We can learn though, from Moltmann. For as I read his works, and as I read the reputable historians of Australian (and other) colonial histories, I must simply remind myself over and again that I too would almost certainly have been complicit in sins of commission or omission (turning away) during the history of colonial expansion. That is why I take so seriously the words of confession: ‘we have sinned’. And we probably will again. That’s why we need God: despite such sin, God forgives.

έ̉ν Χριστω̣̃ – (Fr)  Michael