Friday, 25 May 2007

National Day of Thanksgiving Insulting

It’s National Day of Thanksgiving again, and this year’s event has sparked some intense debate – because it falls on Sorry Day.

This year they’re at least paying some tribute to our Indigenous people: here is an excerpt from the Governor Generals statement that is being read at all National Day of Thanksgiving official functions (mostly churches):

This year we honour our Indigenous people, the original inhabitants and traditional owners of the land, for their contribution to the success of modern Australia - in times of war and peace, on the sporting arena, on the land, and in many other fields of endeavour.”

But is it too little, too late? Here is an article provided by a Progression member: The National Day of Thanksgiving (NDOT), on May 26 2007, is "a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation".

But it's a con. It's a diversion and a deliberate sabotage of one of the years most significant times for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) communities. And it also should be a time of deep remorse, reconciliation and commitment by all Australians, for apologies and action. May 26 is Sorry Day and the Long Walk; the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum is commemorated on May 27, and that day also marks the beginning of the National Week of Reconciliation.This will be followed by the 50th anniversary of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee on July 8-15.

The paternalism and arrogance of the religious right and its NDOT is breathtaking. Challenged two years ago that they were trampling over the Indigenous communities Sorry Day, the organiser of NDOT responded, "we hadn't even thought of that,we weren't aware when Sorry Day was".
There are pages and pages on "ideas" (employers can hold morning teas for their employees); "suggestions"( a thank you morning tea for your local police); or "gift cards and ribbons" - "$2 a pack of 6" - for your boss, local police or fire brigade,but not a word about morning tea for "our First Nation".

It's white Christian triumphalism at its best. It's a time for "re-dedication of our nation to God", to declare God's "prophetic vision for our Nation", to "proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our Nation", and as one of the speakers to the Parliamentary Prayer Network prophesied, it's time for "Christians to take over the world and that Australia is on the brink of becoming a theocracy".

But there's still another agenda behind all this thanksgiving. For the organisers it's not only "a vehicle to assist in restoring Christian values", it's also "an effective tool to engage in mission and evangelism". Why then is it being endorsed, promoted and supported by the Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition?
For "Kevin from Queensland", I guess its a matter of covering all bases in an election year; for "Jeffery of Yarralumla", anything to be noticed; and for "John from Kirribilli", anything, to divert people's attention from Sorry Day,Long Walks and Reconciliation. There's no mistaking the PM's message, it's about "recognising Indigenous Australians" and certainly not about apologies and regrets.Even allowing for the cynical use by politicians of religious occasions, their enthusiasm for the Day is intriguing.

Instead of main line churches, it's a collection of the cream of Australia's religious right. Of the sixty two, nine are companies profiting from the Day,(including a television station,five radio stations,a bookshop and a media agency); and some seventeen, are local congregations,"prayer groups" and "ministers associations". One man, founded and directs another four organisations (Australian Heart Ministries,Australian Heart Productions,, and the Fatherhood Foundation,( "women only want a sperm donor to validate their reproductive needs....and a poor sucker to pay for it"), while a woman either,directs or represents another four. Life Ministries, is closely allied to the Christian Democratic Party; Hope Generation is an "incorporated member of the Assemblies of God (AOG)", while another half-dozen organisations are led by AOG ministers. And so it goes on.

Why would the Governor General be endorsing organisations promoting Christian Zionism (Intercessors for Melbourne,Youth Arise and the Australian Prayer Network),or has kindergarten kids making banners with "the blood of Jesus Christ" on them(Miracle Education).

Why would the Prime Minister be lining up with the call for a ten-year moratorium on Muslim migration to Australia (Saltshakers, Catch the Fire)! Does he really believe the world was created in seven days as do organisations he endorses (Creation Ministries International,Campus Crusade for Christ)? And frankly, what's the Opposition Leader doing, promoting the National Alliance of Christian Leaders, which supports the "scrapping of the UN", and believes that "multiculturalism is fundamentally flawed"?

The Day of Thanksgiving will only confirm for ATSI communities what they already know, people are too busy running their own agendas, and if the religious right has it's way, Aboriginal communities will continue to stand "alone in their quest for justice". A few months after the First Day of Mourning back in 1938, Doug Nicholls, Yorta Yorta man,pastor and black activist, looked around in despair and anger, and said that nothing will change until, "White people learn to think black". It's a shameful day,this National Day of Thanksgiving, as it once again tramples over the hurt and injustice of Aboriginal Australians.


Marcus Claxton said...

Or instead of a conspiracy it could be just coincidence??

In 1998 Sorry Day began and it was decided to hold it on May 26th each year. The day before the anniversary of indigenous people gaining the vote.

In 2003 "It was decided to hold a National Day of Thanksgiving on the Saturday of Pentecost weekend each year and to seek to have the day included in our national calendar." This year Pentecost weekend included Saturday the 26th May.

So it looks like a significant day for both the indigenous people of Australia and many Christian groups just happened to fall on the same day. Certainly not a deliberate sabotage. Unless of course those people who determined in 2003 to have it on the weekend of pentecost did their calculations and said when will these two dates coincide let's do it then...not sure about that??

So who has more right to continue on?? I think the statement "But it's a con. It's a diversion and a deliberate sabotage of one of the years most significant times for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) communities." is a bit out of line isn't it? The weekend of Pentecost has been around for a lot longer than "Sorry Day" and certainly has significance around the world for a large number of Christians.

"And it also should be a time of deep remorse, reconciliation and commitment by all Australians, for apologies and action." So true. It should be, but the heritage of Pentcost weekend must also be acknowledged I believe. Both are significant occasions for different groups of people.

Once again I don't really understand why the focus of this blog is what other Christians or Christian groups are doing wrong! Why not focus on what Christians can do or are doing to make "Sorry Day" an even bigger success next year. Why not write an article praising Christian efforts in reconciliation and encouraging more people to do the like? I assume there are some Christian groups who are proactively supporting Sorry Day in some form, are there?

Emma said...

"I assume there are some Christian groups who are proactively supporting Sorry Day in some form, are there?"

Isn't it a bit much that we don't know and have to ask?

I'd be interested to hear from Christians who do actively support Sorry Day - what do you think?

btw "Once again I don't really understand why the focus of this blog is what other Christians or Christian groups are doing wrong!" I think if you read my preface this is an article written by a Progression member, and I asked for opinions. The point of the blog is discussion, as is the point of most blogs. Discussion about how Christianity and politics work together, how we are doing things wrong as well as how we are doing things right. And it seems we are in dicussion, so it's worked!

Emma said...

want to add too that I didn't realise NDOT was about Pentecost too...good to have that side of the debate as well.

ADHD Librarian said...

I'm going to come out in support of you in this one. I think there is a bit of a scatter gun approach to the issue at hand in the article and, given the vast number of 'days' we celebrate in Australia (red nose, daffodil, May, Sorry, Moose bite victim's day...) there are always going to be overlaps. That is no big deal to me.

The issue that I take from this article though is that the Christian Church (along with most of mainstream Australia) needs to do more to ensure that indigenous Australians are not treated as second class citizens.

Now, being as I've been in Alice Springs for the past four years I've seen more of this issue than most of my latte drinking lefty comrades and I wouldn't know where the hell to start when it comes to this issue, but Churches could certainly raise awareness of the problems from the pulpit. And churches are well placed to look at it from a social justice position, rather than the stupid racist tainted sensationalist crap that most people see on ACA or Today Tonight.

ADHD Librarian said...

The thing i forgot to put at the end of my post, was a reiteration of the idea that this blog is not about the canon position of Progression, rather it is a sounding board so that many Christians, with disparate views on things political, can bounce ideas off each other and decide on a position about social issues which reflect the social justice message of Jesus.

Therefore I don't expect to agree with every point of view put forward. lets face it, those of you who have debated me on any issue are well aware that I don't always support my own stated position, I just want to argue so i can understand as much of the issue as possible.