It was a delight recently to help host the Toowoomba leg of the visit of Arda Aghazarian. An Armenian Christian Palestinian from the Old City of Jerusalem, she has been in Australia as part of a national tour arranged by the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Network and World Vision. Her gentle but challenging, articulate and incisive telling of her story and situation has been a powerful witness to the need for Christians and others to attend much more fully and deeply to the oppression of Palestinian people. This involves complex issues and competing narratives but the plight of ordinary Palestinians and the call to justice can not be ignored. Of course this is what is often attempted. For human beings can often try to settle for a surface peace: 'the peace that is no peace'. It is so much harder to seek and establish justice and to see peacemaking as involving the transformation of structural injustice. People who are typically immensely warm and generous to personal injustices sometimes struggle even to acknowledge structural injustice. Yet this is part of the Christian calling, as expressed beautifully by Arda and ecumenical work such as the Kairos Palestine document.
What is still startling to me, even after almost 14 years in Australia, is how little we as a nation fully celebrate our living Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. How truly astonishing it is and how amazing the people who have lived through so many hard journeys. For we also spend huge amounts of energy on Anzac related activity, yet still struggle to honour the pain and heroism of our own historic conflicts at home (such as that of Multuggerah and Multugerrah Mountain (aka Table Top Mountain) in the Toowoomba area) As newcomers, those of us who have come from so many lands over the last 200 years are (to use St Paul's wonderful phrase) grafted on to a stupendous tree: the oldest living culture in the whole world. How wonderful it is to be allowed to share in this. Yesterday's "Talking Tour' of key Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander sites in the Toowoomba area was a case in point. Led graciously by the lively, highly informative and remarkable elders Uncle Darby McCarthy and Donna Moodie, our parish group enjoyed a fabulous day. From ancient sites (such as the gorgeously healing women's site in Highfields) to contemporary projects (such as the Jack Martin Centre, seeking to transform young lives, and the Gumbi Gumbi gardens) and with lots of fun, food and other connections along the way, we took important new steps in walking together. It is just one small sign of the gradual reconciling change in Australia. There is a long way to go, especially in addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and empowerment, but the Spirit is at work in such humble ways.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.