Stand Together As Religions To End Racism

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STATEMENT OF SUPPORT FOR JUSTICE FOR ABORIGINAL AND OTHER PEOPLES IN AUSTRALIA FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD IN AMERICA

Eternal Spirit of the Universe, who created us ‘in Your own image’: Grant us strength to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, recognising our gift of freedom, help us to employ it to demand the establishment of justice in our communities and among the nations.

The Hebrew Bible unequivocally calls out to us: "do not stand idly by” when the blood of your fellow human being is spilled” (Leviticus 19:16). 

We, living across this great land known as Australia, want to express our heartbreak and outrage at the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, but take this opportunity to reflect on the violence disproportionately shown against the Aboriginal and Indigenous communities here, and against others who some perceive to be different in colour or dress, such as Muslims, Somalis, Sikhs or Jews.

George Floyd’s death is the most recent and shocking example of an appalling pattern of hundreds of years of violence perpetrated on the black community in the US, and has lead to nationwide demonstrations demanding change to rectify ongoing and systemic injustices.

Our history too has dark shadows, but responses here have been far more muted – and far too muted! Last year Joyce Clark was shot dead by police in Geraldton, WA. In 2017, Tanya Day died in police custody in Castlemaine, the inquest finding that unconscious race bias had played a role. Teenager TJ Hickey died in 2004 when police pursued him on his bike. In 2018, Queensland taxpayers paid Palm Island residents $30 million in compensation after the federal court found police used excessive force on residents during riots following the 2004 death in custody of Mulrindji Doomadgee. And we should not think these incidents are few and far between and inevitable. More than 430 Aboriginals have died across Australia since the four-year royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody found that our laws disproportionately criminalised Aboriginal people, 28 years ago in 1991.

We condemn these behaviours as assaults on the dignity of human beings, every one of whom is created in the image of God; a breakdown of the Bible’s prime command “Do not murder”; and a blasphemous disregard of its sacred commitment to justice. It is a gross violation of what we claim are Australian values that proclaim that we are all equal and endowed with an inalienable right to life and liberty. 

We express our solidarity with the original custodians of this nation and to all minority communities who confront discrimination on a daily basis anywhere in the world. Australia cannot aspire to uphold a model of democracy, freedom and fair-go until it stops such repeated degradation and denial of the value of every human life. We are with you. 

Those who consider themselves religious must stand with all fellow Australians of good conscience in confronting the reality of racism in our society and investigate how we can help to bring about much-needed systemic change, regardless of race or ethnicity. 

We, the signers of this statement, commit ourselves to root out racism in our own communities starting in the following ways:

- We will acknowledge the original custodianship of the land on which we live and congregate, including when conducting burials in the land, which create an eternal link to it.

- We will work to fight the racism found in the communities we lead. We will show zero tolerance for racist stereotypes and outright bigotry. Change has to start with our own communities, synagogues, and schools. 

- We will arrange sermons, speakers and seminars relating to Indigenous affairs and racism, especially structural racism, in the immediate weeks to come and across the year, raising the issues that arise nationally as well as in our own communities. We will invite and welcome voices from diverse communities.

- We will stand with our fellow citizens of Aboriginal and other backgrounds who experience racism and disadvantage, and listen to what they are asking from us, and will seek to reach out and build relationships that will continue as we do the work to make our nation a more just and equitable place for all.

- We will act in concert with the needs expressed by Aboriginal communities and bodies, including acknowledging and working for the structures and rights most recently laid out in the Uluru Statement.

- We commit to promoting and supporting campaigns working to fight structural racism. 

- We will talk about why too many interactions with police are terrifying to Aboriginal and minority groups and are too often dangerous to their well-being (an experience that most non-Aboriginal and other communities today largely do not share).

Please call on us to help in any way that we can. Together all of us must dig deep, vet our public processes and our discourse, and hold everyone - including ourselves – accountable, until we bring all racism and abuse to an end. The soul of Australia has been blighted since the settlers arrived on these shores and it is well past time to set a new and just direction.



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