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Earthing Theology

The Land as the Site of Justice for Aboriginal Australians

In: International Journal of Asian Christianity
Author:
John D’Arcy May Fellow Emeritus, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, mayjd@tcd.ie

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Abstract

The encounter of Aboriginal Australians with European settlers led to appalling injustices, in which Christian churches were in part complicit. At the root of these injustices was the failure to comprehend the Aborigines’ relationship to the land. In their mythic vision, known as The Dreaming, land is suffused with religious meaning and therefore sacred. It took two hundred years for this to be acknowledged in British-Australian law (Mabo judgement, 1992). This abrogated the doctrine of terra nullius (the land belongs to no-one) and recognized native title to land, based on continuous occupation and ritual use. But land disputes continue, and at a deeper level, there is little appreciation of the Indigenous spirituality of the land and the significance it could have for reconciliation with First Nations and the ecological crisis. Aboriginal theologies can help Christians to appreciate the riches of this spirituality and work towards justice.

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