Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Brian McCoy has lived among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for much of his Jesuit and priestly life. In this video message, he speaks about the Black Lives Matter movement, the relationships that are important to him, and how others might go about building stronger relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Full transcript below video.
Black lives matter.
Three words that have resonated since the death of George Floyd some weeks ago in America. These three words have resonated across the world, and within our own country.
Black lives matter.
And in these weeks I have been reflecting on those people I know, whose lives really matter to me deeply, personally, and passionately. My Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends across many parts of this country. My South Sea Islander friends and their descendants in North Queensland. And particular friendships, what the desert people call walytja, family connectedness, relatedness.
My yalpurru in Broome, born the same day as myself. My panytji, my brother in law, my teacher and friend in Balgo.
My Aboriginal mentor in health in Canberra.
And all my Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander colleagues in health across the universities of Monash and Melbourne, in South Australia, in Perth and North Queensland. My god daughters in Kununurra, Woorabinda and Rockhampton.
Many walytja, many friends, and their lives, deeply matter to me, as I hope they do to themselves and those around them. But do they matter to you?
Do they really matter?
In the last three months we have been advised not to come too close to the person in front of us and shake their hands. Instead some have taken to the use of the elbow – not a gesture I find particularly warm or affectionate.
And so I have reverted to this gesture [places hands together in front of himself and bows], a gesture found in many Asian cultures, showing respect to the person in front of them. Sometimes I use the Hindu word, namaste – ‘the Divine in me, acknowledging the divine in you.’
And namaste, I gather is an old Sanskrit word meaning, ‘Not I’. Acknowledgement, not of me, but of the person in front of me.
For my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, when I acknowledge them, when my spirit acknowledges their spirit, I am drawn more deeply into the sacredness, and the mystery and the beauty of this land.
Because they are the only ones who can do this. They are the only ones who can draw my spirit, in their spirit, into this ancient land. And drawing me to appreciate and value, not just their lives, but the lives of those who have gone before them, and how to live and walk, gently and respectfully with them upon this land, a gift to us.
And so today as we think of the ways we show respect to the person in front of us, I think of our police, our prison officers, our teachers, our shopkeepers. I think of all of us who watch sport and play sports, encouraging each of us to show respect to the spirit in the other.
And at this time, because black lives do matter, we increasingly find deeper ways, richer ways, meaningful ways to respect the life of those people – the only people in this land who can draw us more deeply, and in beautiful and rich ways, to live together in love, in respect, in hope, upon this land together.
To you all watching – namaste.
Fr Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial.
Image: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images.