‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ was the theme for NAIDOC Week 2020. It’s a challenge for us to come to terms with our history and our relationship with First Nations people, and it’s also a challenge for what we might become, says Fr Brian McCoy SJ. Full transcript below.
‘Always Was, Always Will Be.’
This was the theme of NAIDOC Week, which we celebrated last week. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander week celebration that had been postponed due to the pandemic.
And as we come to the end of this year, and as we remember students who are finishing their schooling, or university, or other colleges or other forms of study, they may well ask: Is this always what it was? And what will it be in the future for us?
What does ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ mean for us as people, as a nation?
There are two stories in the Australian Jesuit News this week that open up that mantra.
The first is a story from our school in Redfern, in New South Wales – Redfern Jarjum College – ‘jarjum’ being an Aboriginal word for ‘child’.
And there, over some years, we have worked with families and communities to educate young primary Aboriginal children, to give them a chance to become part of our nation in new ways, through education and family support, for them, and for us, into the future.
Their very presence reminds us of what always was – this long continuous connection for First Nations people over 65,000 years.
The other story in Australian Jesuit News this week is the 40th anniversary celebration of JRS – the Jesuit Refugee Service – begun by Pedro Arrupe. The service, now throughout the world, over these many years, Jesuits and partners and friends, seeking to support people seeking refuge and asylum.
They remind us that what always will be is still to be healed, to become, to be possible. Because even within our own country, we who many of us are descendants of those who sought refuge and asylum, have failed to welcome those who have come after us, seeking to find a new home, a safe home, a welcome home, in this land.
So in some ways the Jarjum children help us to look always was, this nation, this relationship, with First Nations people. The importance of walking with them, and listening to their voice. But ‘always will be’ remains a challenge of what we might become with them, and with others who wish to come and settle and find a home with us in this land.
And it is here that our faith in Jesus makes a difference. Because Jesus has come to us. He has lived amongst us. He has brought the word of the Father, the God who creates, to us, and the confidence that ‘what always was’ was this God who gave life and continues to give life and always will continue to give life.
We have a God, a giver of life. A God who has always given life, from the birth of this land. And a God who walks with us, calling us to be givers of life to others who come upon it.
A God who always was, a God who always will be.
So as we come to finish and celebrate this end of the year, we might help those who are wondering ‘what always was’ to consider that God walks with us, a creative God, a generous God, a God who will always make us feel welcome upon the land. A God who calls us to listen, and walk with, and listen to, First Nations peoples.
But it’s a God who always will be with us, calling us, and the peoples of the world, always to be at home with each other, to welcome those who seek a safe refuge and place to live. And that God will always be creative, be generous, be present and be with us in that journey.
‘Always Was, Always Will Be.’
Let’s pray to know the grace of those words.
Image: Kakadu National Park at Nourlangie (Depositphotos).