Australian study is timely

Published April 1, 2001

Searching for Australia’s Soul
By Norman C. Habel
198 pages, paper $19.95
Harper Collins

THE PHRASE “healing and reconciliation” has become popular as churches struggle in light of the residential schools issues to find their future contribution to the well-being of indigenous communities in Canada.

There is a long and clear tradition of healing in Christian life. Our indigenous peoples are searching for healing. It is an urgent matter. Neither church nor government, however, can impose a healing program; indeed, that was the problem a century ago. Healing is in the hands of those injured.

Reconciliation is a different matter. Canada desperately needs reconciliation between the indigenous peoples and the other peoples who live in this land. Norman Habel, a Lutheran pastor in Australia, has examined the situation in his country and his book has both insights and proposals that are relevant to Canada.

The Aboriginies of Australia – referred to as the “stolen generation” – suffered much like Canadian indigenous peoples. The Australian government and the churches are slowly and painfully working at reconciliation. Habel, a fifth generation Australian of German background, weaves his personal experiences with an analysis that aims at practical steps toward reconciliation.

He identifies three principles required for reconciliation: truth, justice, and identity. Factors of forgiveness and suffering are important. Underlying this process of reconciliation is the spiritual dimension, rooted in Christian scripture and the long tradition of social justice. The work of reconciliation needs to be cognizant of a respect for the land and for the stories of past generations.

This book is timely and relevant for Christians in Canada as we hold out a vision of our society in which indigenous and non-indigenous communities are reconciled and healed.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles is General Secretary of General Synod.


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