“The Voice is an invitation to move towards national healing, unity and reconciliation. It seeks to formalise in our Constitution a way by which First Nations’ voices and concerns can be heard, and to establish a means for overcoming the devastating effects of social exclusion. This is an opportunity to unite Australians around a proposal that seeks to make life better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”Faith Leaders Open Letter to Federal Parliamentarians on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum
On February 22nd, Faith Leaders across Australia issued an open letter calling on all parliamentarians and political leaders to support a Voice to Parliament. We in the Church have repeatedly made clear our commitment to justice for First Australians.
We must also reckon with our role in the immense loss and damage suffered by First Nations peoples through such things as our participation in the forcible removal of children from their families and communities.
Yet despite our participation in these grave injustices, The Uluru statement from the Heart graciously invites us all to walk together with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers in pursuit of a better and more just future. To refuse this invitation is to deny our one human family.
It is regrettable, though not entirely unsurprising, that the referendum on the Voice is becoming so politically partisan. This does not mean that we Christians should not get involved in matters which are political in nature. Rather, the Church teaches us that it is our vocation to be witnesses and agents of peace and justice in the midst of the political life of society: In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI instructs us that “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful”.
The path to The Voice is not simply through the efforts of individuals, but by communities coming together to work for change. What work can you do in your parish, diocese, or community to encourage and support Australians to Walk Together?
Among others, the following dates can provide opportunities for us to listen and reflect on the voices of First Australians and unite with them in the struggle for justice:
- National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June)
- Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday (July 2)
- NAIDOC Week (2 July – 9 July)
Our commitment to justice for aboriginal people must also be an ongoing process, not limited to a single vote on a single day. The Voice will be the first step on a long journey. True Justice requires true empathy, a willingness to hear the truths of first nations peoples with an open heart and a commitment to walk together in the pursuit of justice and unity.
Become involved to make your voice on The Voice heard here: https://yes23.com.au/volunteer
The Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace is a member of the Allies for Uluru Coalition. We want to join with other community organisations to work for unity in our nation. We hope this will encourage others to join local efforts to promote support for the referendum campaign.