June 29, 2016
In July, NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ABM’s Reconciliation Coordinator, Celia Kemp reflects.
Rungutjirpa (Simpson’s Gap), Northern Territory. © Celia Kemp/ABM 2016.
The driving metaphor in indigenous affairs is ‘closing the gap’.
The gap makes us deeply uncomfortable.
One way to deal with this is by attempting to eliminate it.
We, on this side, can help you, on that side, come over here and join us.
Then we will be all together with no gap between.
However if ‘helping’ actually means ‘I am ok, let me help you change to become like me’ then perhaps it isn’t, in fact, as helpful as we think.
And when it doesn’t work, and the other stubbornly remains other, we may well deal with the resulting sense of failure by blaming them.
The response sections on Australian blogs are full of this sort of commentary.
Richard Rohr writes that ‘Too much fixing and problem-solving are often an avoidance of that very “breakdown”, that collapse into Mercy which alone will finally help us.’ (Grace in Action, 1994)
It may be that instead of standing secure on our edge we have to step out into the gap.
This feels like stepping out into a void.
Because it is.
We are likely to find that we are not who we thought we were. And that some, maybe quite a lot, of what we previously held to be true, isn’t.
Rev Glenn Loughrey wrote moving National Reconciliation Week resources for ABM (www.abmission.org/reconciliation) around the theme of exile.
He vividly describes this difficult place:
Exile can be both the end and the beginning. The end as it symbolizes the loss of what we had; the beginning because it asks of us questions we would otherwise never have confronted. What is important? Who am I? What is my identity? Where do I belong? Where am at home? Is where I am now where I am to be forever or is this beginning of something different and new?
Exile has the power to unbalance, challenge, empower and transform…
It is a place where he, and many indigenous people, already live.
It may be that instead of ‘closing the gap’ we, in Western culture, are called to forego our own security and step into it, risking falling and destruction, in the hope that it is the place where God will call us all together into something new.
> Find out more about NAIDOC Week here: http://www.naidoc.org.au/