Over the last month, I, like many across the Western world, have been rightly confronted with the #Black Lives Matter movement and wondering what should be my response.
Watching the footage of protests across the world and listening to the stories of not only black Americans but also from our own indigenous people as part of National Reconciliation Week, we have been reminded that there is systemic and ingrained racial discrimination and injustices in our systems. Deaths in custody, which in Australia stands at 432 deaths since the 1991 Royal Commission into deaths in custody, exposes this.
Ingrained racial discrimination which as a white Caucasian I have to admit that I am largely entirely ignorant of and blind to. Because of this it can be very easy to default into a posture of self-justification or blame. To say to myself, that the comments being made do not relate to me and that in no way am I the cause of the system that has given rise to the deaths, anger and injustice that we are hearing about.
But if I step back for a moment and hear these words through the PeaceWise reconciliation process of “God, Me, You, Us”, this temptation to self-justify and dismiss what I am hearing is quickly challenged.
The GOD piece: “How can I please & glorify God in this situation?” I ask.
For starters, before making any response, it means I need to consider the question, “how can I please and glorify God in this situation?” As I sit with this question, I begin to reflect again on 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 …. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ … As I do this, I am reminded that this is an opportunity to glorify God, serve others and grow to become more like Christ. For this to happen in this space though means I need to stop. I need to suspend my natural tendency to self-justify or blame others and listen.
Listen firstly to God. I need to come before our Father and seek to hear from him what he might be saying. Hear how I might glorify him, serve those that are rightly hurting and angry and grow to become more like him. Hear the assurance of his grace and acceptance of me through his son Jesus Christ to help me humbly listen to the angry voices of our first peoples and accept that I might be part of the problem. But it can’t stop there. I need to also ask the question,
The ME piece: “How can I show Jesus work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution in this conflict?”
Something that I will only be able to do if I stop to hear our first nations people’s stories. Listen to their perspective to see the log in my own eye that I am becoming increasingly aware I have been completely blind to, and I am not alone. Ming Long, member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to the financial and real estate sector and diversity and inclusion in speaking about root causes of systemic injustice in Australia on ABC-The DRUM said, “This is a really hard realisation, and I put myself in the category, the fact is that probably 99% of us are racist. We may not want to be but by our education, the media that we consume, the rhetoric that we listen to, the very fundamental nature of the culture we have is centred around being a white Caucasian person and people of colour are lesser persons.” As painful as it is to hear this only by hearing will I be able to better see the log and in turn confess, repent and change.
I am not yet ready to or able to even consider the 3rd and 4th steps of the PeaceWise process of YOU and US and I have little understanding at this point of what they might look like either for me personally or for us as a nation. For now, I need to listen and would like to encourage others to join me. One practical way to do this is to listen to Brooke Prentis poem, “We can’t breath,” that can be found here.
PeaceWise itself has also decided to begin prayerfully exploring its own response as a ministry to the issue of reconciliation with Australia’s first nations people.
Seeking to listen,
This article was written by Wayne Forward.
Wayne has a diverse work back ground across Mental Health Nursing and Christian Ministry in which he has worked in a variety of leadership and training roles. He has formal studies in Nursing, Theology, Coaching & Training and is currently undertaking master’s studies in missional leadership. He currently works with Pioneers Australia and is also a Director of PeaceWise.
 ABC, The Drum. Screened Monday 8/6/2020. Quote taken at 16:00min