Commission Urges Church to Make Long-Term Commitment to Reconciliation

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission today urged Catholic parishes, schools, bodies and agencies to make a long-term commitment to reconciliation in response to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2006.

In their statement, the Bishops reclaimed and passed on Pope John Paul II’s message of twenty years ago when he addressed Indigenous Australians in Alice Springs.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that it is the strong desire of the Commission that every part of the Church in Brisbane responds to the Bishops’ Statement with enthusiasm and commitment.

“Just as Pope John Paul did, our Bishops are throwing out a significant challenge to the Church in Australia,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Bishops highlighted four major elements in the Popes’ message,” he said.

“They stressed the need for supporting efforts to preserve Indigenous culture and for a dialogue between Indigenous culture and spirituality and the Christian tradition,” he said.

“They also emphasised the importance of caring for the land, of supporting land rights for Indigenous people and of doing what is possible to remedy the hurts of the past,” he said.

“Much has been done and this should be acknowledged and celebrated, but this year’s Social Justice Statement will help us to re-focus our efforts in critical areas,” he said.

Mr Arndt emphasised the importance of supporting the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which will come before the UN General Assembly by the end of this year and for the Plan of Action which has been developed to follow up the Declaration.

This was the principal focus of the Commission’s recent Social Justice Gathering and it will be making efforts to promote greater awareness of and action in support of the Declaration and the Plan.

“Australia is one of only a couple of countries which have refused to support the Declaration and encouraging our politicians to support it would be one worthwhile and practical response to the Australian Bishops’ call,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Commission will continue to work with its Indigenous advisory group to keep the call of our Bishops and Pope John Paul before the Church of Brisbane and to provide resources to help Catholics to take action,” he said.

Mr Arndt also encouraged Catholics in Brisbane and other parts of Queensland to develop close relationships with local Indigenous people and communities in the wake of the recent State election.

“During the election period, the Commission urged politicians and electors to focus more attention on the most marginalised people, especially Indigenous Queenslanders,” Mr Arndt said.

“Since the re-election of the Beattie Government, we have seen the integration of Indigenous policy into the Communities Department and this provoked great concern among many Indigenous people,” he said.

“The Premier has said that having a Minister with sole responsibility for Indigenous policy did not work and that ‘mainstreaming’ Indigenous affairs has more chance of working,” he said.

“None of this seemed to be aired as part of the election campaign and it is concerning that the Premier has provided no substantial analysis and assessment of the situation before taking this significant step,” he said.

“What Indigenous people keep saying is that the Government is not getting anywhere because of the attitude it adopts with Indigenous people and communities,” he said.

“They are upset that the Government is more interested in telling Indigenous people what they ought to do instead of developing meaningful partnerships with them,” he said.

“There must be a greater commitment on the part of both the Labor Government and the Coalition Opposition to work with Indigenous people to eradicate enormous disadvantage within Indigenous communities while maintaining Indigenous culture and identity,” he said.

“Over the next three years, there will be a need for Catholics to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices which challenge our political leaders to take concerted action to, at last, offer dignified lives to the first peoples of our land,” he said.

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