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Pope inspires Ecumenical Indigenous Commission

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) has referred to Pope John Paul II's landmark 1986 speech to indigenous Australians as a source of inspiration at a time when setbacks in reconciliation demand "rebirth".

NATSIEC Executive Secretary Graeme Mundine said the Pope spoke of Indigenous experience being like that of a tree in the midst of a bushfire.

Quoting the Pope's suggestion that "The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned; but inside the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong," he stressed the Holy Father's reminder that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders "still have the power to be reborn", and "the time for this rebirth is now!"

Mr Mundine said the message remains relevant almost 20 years after it was delivered in Alice Springs.

"Recent events in Palm Island and Redfern as well as the ongoing problems in areas such as health, employment, incarceration levels and education, and the dismantling of ATSIC, show that the fires of injustice are still burning strongly," said Mr. Mundine.

"We have endured the flames but have we been reborn? Can our hearts also burn with hope and a renewed sense of justice as we walk together on a new road?" Mr. Mundine asks.

NATSIEC is sponsoring a series of evening forums titled 'Hearts are Burning'. The events began at Redfern in Sydney on Monday, and moved to Canberra last night. The third event takes place tonight at St Brigid's Catholic Church in Dubbo NSW. The speakers include Anglican Aboriginal Bishop James Leftwich, and Vicki Walker of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne.

The Hearts are Burning Forums are the first in a series of events celebrating the anniversary of the Pope's visit and message to ATSI peoples. In October 2006 Indigenous Christians will again gather in Alice Springs for a week long ecumenical celebration which will include an arts festival, theology forum and separate women's, men's and youth events.

Putting Indigenous Issues at the centre of our common concerns (National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission - NATSIEC - 28/2/05)

National Council of Churches in Australia - Hearts are Burning
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council
Pope told of Aboriginal gratitude (The Age 19/3/04)

2 Mar 2005