Weekly Reflections: The stolen generations


By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN

“For when we are in unionwith Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor the lack of it makes any difference at all; what matters is faith that works through love.” – Galatians 5:6

Australia

Our extremely generous Australian host, Lyn and Mike Leanne, brought Pearl and I to a very timely movie entitled Australia. Watching movies purposively is one thing I have never done for years. I seldom watch movies, but Australia is one movie that is worth watching. Anyone interested of Australia’s aboriginal history should not miss it.

The movie addresses the very sensitive aboriginal issues of land and aboriginal assimilation. Australia is populated by numerous aboriginal peoples long before the Europeans and other immigrants came. But when the Europeans landed in the shores of this huge and beautiful country, they tried to impose upon the aboriginal people their own culture and way of life. They had an assimilation policy that was abolished only in 1973. They would take the aboriginal children away from their own homes, bring them to the so-called mission islands, and would try to Europeanize them – to make them think and behave like them.

Those victims of this policy are now known as the stolen generations. Truly, they were stolen not only from their own homes literally, but rather they were also stolen and alienated from their own culture and way of life. Just recently, the Australian Prime Minister issued a public apology to the aboriginal people for the sins of the past. Issuing an apology may not be enough, but at least it is a good start.

Apology can be a sign of remorse that may hopefully lead to forgiveness, healing, and restoration. Definitely, what was stolen must be restored.

Mission island strategy

The mission island strategy of assimilating aboriginal peoples into the European dominated culture was actually no different from that of the mission compound strategy of American Protestant missionaries in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th Century.  In a typical mission compound, there would be a church, a school, and a hospital.  All these three institutions would help each other to change the culture of a Filipino and to make him or her little brown American.

To be a Christian, therefore, is to embrace the American culture and way of life. Similarly, the aboriginal peoples of Australia were also assimilated into the European dominated culture in order to be truly Australian and Christian at the same time. The Australian government’s abolition of its assimilation policy in 1973 and the Prime Minister’s issuance of apology recently are indicative of the fact that an Australian can actually be an aboriginal and Christian at the same time without necessarily embracing the European culture.

Paul and the Gentile Christians

This reminds us of Apostle Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. The Jewish Christian leaders in Jerusalem questioned his apostleship for passionately preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. A question was asked as to who really was a true Christian. The Jewish Christians would not consider the Gentile Christians genuine if they would not be circumcised and observe the Jewish food laws like themselves. They themselves and their cultural practices now became the standard of the Christian faith.

However, Apostle Paul insisted that we are all one in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal. 3:28). He said, “For when we are in union with Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor the lack of it makes any difference at all; what matters is faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6). Indeed, what matters in life are not so much the rituals and ceremonies that we practice externally, but rather the faith that works through love that springs out from the depths of our human heart. #

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One Response to “Weekly Reflections: The stolen generations”

  1. casserole Says:

    good site!

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