Social Justice Sunday
Australia’s Catholic bishops have called on the nation to seek “a new engagement” with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their annual Social Justice Statement launched this week.
At the recent launch of this year’s statement, Listen, Learn, Love: A New Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service, Bishop Vincent Long OFM said:
“Catholic social teaching and Catholic social action are not simply theoretical and academic exercises… We hear what God is saying to us about justice by being with our sisters and brothers on the peripheries of society.”
While the Social Justice Statement is a teaching document of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a large part of this year’s statement was written by members of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC).
NATSICC speaks directly to us about the history of injustice and mistreatment faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and shares what they hope for in the future.
The Social Justice Statement is issued in an important year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and, indeed, for all Australians. It’s the year when we vote on a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution.
Both the Bishops and NATSICC see the forthcoming referendum as an opportunity for the Church to begin a new engagement with the First Peoples of our land.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge has already spoken out in support of creating an Indigenous Voice to parliament earlier this year. “I’m strongly committed to the Voice. I’ve listened to important and convincing indigenous voices on this topic,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
The Bishops and NATSICC see this year as an opportunity for the Church to lead the way for all Australians. Instead of telling the First Peoples what should happen, they say we need to listen to them and learn from them what is the best way to overcome their significant disadvantage. It is part of this year’s message, exhortation to “listen”.
“Listening is hard. Hearing about young people taking their lives, about so many people ending up in jail, of children still being taken away from their parents and grandparents and about the ongoing racism is tough,” Bishop Long said at the launch.
“It must be so much more difficult for these people to tell us about their painful experiences.”
The Bishops and NATSICC invite us to this new engagement in the statement’s conclusion:
We, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, invite members of the Church to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this year of great possibility. We hope for an end to the pain, the hurt and the injustice that has burdened the First Peoples of this land for far too long. Let us commit ourselves to fostering a civilisation of love in Australia. Let’s come together in friendship and love to show all that love can not only change individual lives, but that it can change society for the better.
Since the 1940s, the bishops have published annual statements that urge the Catholic community to reflect and act on social, economic and ecological issues. The statements are published as a focal point for Social Justice Sunday, which will be marked on 27 August this year.
Read the full statement at: https://socialjustice.catholic.org.au/