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Reconciliation means we are 'in this together'

Reconciliation means we are 'in this together'

Reconciliation means we are 'in this together'

26 May 2020

Uncle Vince Ross, a national elder with the Salvos, says all Australians must learn to understand ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of our shared history.

By Rod Yule

Reconciliation means Christianity with our sleeves rolled up. This is the heart of reconciliation, according to Uncle Vince Ross, a national elder with the Salvos – a Madi-Madi man and convenor of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group. Vince came to faith through the practical demonstration of Christ’s love by Salvos in the 1940s.

“Reconciliation means building real relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he says. “We have a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that come to the Salvos through our different mission expressions – our corps, Salvos Stores, Doorways, and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) services. We need to listen and get to know them.”

The Salvation Army is committed to the process of reconciliation and engagement in National Reconciliation Week. All mission expressions are encouraged to acknowledge the week and commit to God’s heart for reconciliation in practical ways. In our Australian context for First Nations people, Vince sees that this is made up of three key elements.

Firstly, reconciliation needs a commitment to telling the truth about Australia – understanding ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of our shared history. God is committed to shining the light on the truth and bringing it out into the open. This is essential in any healing process for individuals, families and nations.

Secondly, reconciliation requires building relationships of trust and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. This comes from spending time together, listening to one another, and sharing stories. Over time, sharing meals and having a laugh and a cry together. It is the living out of our Christian call to see all people made in the image of God and to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Finally, when we have built trust and confidence in our relationships, then we can act in healthy ways. As we discover the truth together, listen to each other and build healthy relationships, then we can put this into action across Australia. We can work collaboratively together as partners in our local communities.

In February, members of Tasmania’s Indigenous community took part in launching The Salvation Army Reconciliation Action Plan for the division. The plan, developed over 18 months, affirms the Army’s commitment to walk alongside the Indigenous peoples of this land. The key steps in the plan are for the Salvos community to:

• build relationships with Indigenous people, listening to their voice and input;

• cultivate actions that relate to cultural understanding and recognition;

• recognise the historic mistreatment of Tasmania’s Indigenous peoples;

• enact opportunities around employment outcomes, governance; and supplier diversity.

Shirli Congoo, General Manager of The Salvation Army Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team, calls on the Salvos to actively listen. “We need to be courageous, we need strong champions within to drive it and also be open to the advice and influences of strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community people – people who can sit at the table with us to share challenges and give us valuable insights that give us an opportunity to grow and to also sit with us to share our successes.”

The theme for National Reconciliation Week this year (27 May–3 June) is ‘In this together’. COVID-19 has shown us globally that we are all ‘in this together’. We are not islands, but interconnected and intended for healthy relationships based on the truth. Reconciliation reflects the heart of God for all people and is at the very heart of God’s mission in the world.

Rod Yule is General Manager, Local Mission Delivery and Resource, Mission Department.

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