Category Archives: Culture

Celebrating and weeping on World Refugee Day

Some thoughts from World Refugee Day three years ago … still very relevant, although the number of refugees and displaced persons worldwide is now well over 65 million and rising fast.

Thinking Out Loud ...

Image Copyright Michael Leunig/The Age http://www.theage.com.au/photogallery/national/cartoons-for-wednesday-15-august-20120814-246ud.htmlImage copyright Michael Leunig/The Age

The UN General Assembly agreed in 2000 that June 20, today, would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. It is designed to be a day on which the world takes time to recognise the resilience of forcibly displaced people throughout the world.

It is good to celebrate. We can often think of people who have had to flee their home country due to war or persecution primarily in terms of their suffering. But so many refugees show themselves to be not only resilient, but incredibly gracious and compassionate, going on to make incredible contributions to the lives of people in their new home countries and around the world.

Did you know authors Victor Hugo and Joseph Conrad were refugees? As were actors Andy Garcia, Rachel Weisz, Marlene Dietrich and Jackie Chan, scientist Albert Einstein, artist Peter Carl Faberge, businessman Aristotle Onassis, philosophers Sigmund Freud and Freidrich…

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Living out of the stories on my calendar

This past week has been a significant one in our Australian national calendar: Reconciliation Week. This year there have been a number of important anniversaries as part of this, including 20 years since the “Bringing Them Home Report” on the Stolen Generation was tabled in federal parliament, 25 years since the High Court’s “Mabo” decision on native title, and 50 years since the referendum which gave indigenous Australians basic citizenship rights.

I’ve found it helpful to take various opportunities this week to listen to and learn from my Aboriginal brothers and sisters. And in particular, to listen to their voices on what Reconciliation Week means going forward. We don’t mark these dates simply to remember the past; we mark them to acknowledge that this is our story and to ask what it looks like to live out of that story on into the future. How does it shape us and how will it change us?

These cannot just remain dates on the calendar. They need to lead to action.

I think the church calendar works in a similar way. For two thousand years, Christians around the world have marked various dates throughout the year to remember and re-tell key events from the life of Jesus, not just to celebrate or remember what happened on those dates, but to say that this is the story out of which we live and to ask how these particular events shape and transform us. As a Baptist, I have usually only celebrated the main ones of these such as December 25, the Friday before the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (otherwise known as Good Friday) and Easter. But there are other parts of the story that continue to shape how I live.

This year I have had the privilege of preaching on both Ascension (last week) and Pentecost (this Sunday). I have been challenged by the life-altering, world-changing consequences of what happened on these days. I have proclaimed the truths I believe that the man Jesus Christ has been crowned as the reigning King over all creation and that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on women and men, Gentiles and Jews, young and old, in order to invite us into the very life of God and to empower us to live out His character and commands here and now.

These truths cannot just remain dates on my calendar. They are the radical reframing of reality in which I choose to live. They change my perspective on who God is, on who I am, and on how the world works. The story they tell must shape the way I live and engage with others.

After Pentecost, the church calendar now enters a new season, its longest season, often called Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is a reminder that the big moments and occasions we celebrate are lived out in the reality of our day to day lives. Whether it is our national story or our faith story, the challenge is to step into our everyday moments and encounters with transformed purpose and renewed commitment that comes from the fact that we live out of these stories, not just with gratefulness for the events they remember but with hope and anticipation for the renewed future they envisage.

My Australia Day thanksgiving

I have the privilege of living in a land that is home to the world’s oldest living culture.

My country’s indigenous people have been storytellers for thousands of years, a rich tradition that inspires and instructs me as I seek to be a good teller of truth through stories.

Communities across this land have shared some of their unique songs with those of us who have come here more recently, enriching our experience of the great diversity of music.

The peoples of my nation have been custodians and caretakers of the land in a way that encourages and challenges my own care for creation.

My continent has hosted around 700 indigenous languages, weaving a rich tapestry that intrigues me and provides great insight for those who study the history of linguistics. The modern revival of some of these languages is a testimony to their people’s diligence and resilience.

I have personally been welcomed without question into the homes and campfires of strangers through mutual friendships and even embraced by being given a Warlpiri skin name.

The indigenous cultures of my home maintain a deep and abiding spirituality that confronts my tendencies to the novel and the superficial.

Many of the people groups of my homeland have embraced the gospel, enculturating it in ways that demonstrate new facets of God’s grace and glory to me.

This January 26, I am thankful for all the richness, beauty, culture, and knowledge that my indigenous brothers and sisters have and can share with me.

Today is a complicated day, for some observed as Invasion Day, for others lamented as a Day of Mourning, for others commemorated as Survival Day.

Last night I attended a beautiful service of prayer and lament, acknowledging our history as a nation, naming the injustices that have been and are being done, and recognising the ongoing consequences for indigenous people of our failure to address them. We need to walk and work together to bring change. I hope I can find ways to be part of bringing this change.

In response, for me today is not about celebrating or commemorating, but about naming some truths that are too often overlooked. I live on and in a land that belonged to others, and they have much to teach and bless me with. I am thankful for them and for how their story has enriched my life.

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