Reconciliation as Public Theology: Christian Thought in Comparative Indigenous Politics

In: International Journal of Public Theology

Abstract

Christian public theology extends reconciliation beyond its principal sacramental concern for relationships between God and penitent to the construction of ‘socially just’ public relationships for the settlement of intra-national conflict. In theological terms, reconciliation brings public relationships into what Hally calls ‘the Christ narrative of passion, death and resurrection’ in which the perpetrators of injustice repent and seek forgiveness. This article introduces the conflicts that these discourses aim to resolve in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand and explains and contrasts reconciliation’s relative importance in each of these jurisdictions. Moreover, the article’s cross-jurisdictional comparison shows reconciliation’s limits and possibilities as public theology, and argues that in Australia and New Zealand it has helped to create political environments willing to admit indigenous perspectives on a range of policy issues. On the contrary, however, the article also shows that the Fijian churches have distorted the concept of reconciliation to support political imperatives that are difficult to rationalize theologically, even though they are presented by the churches as being concerned with religious goals.

  • 1

    Cyril Hally, ‘Reconstructing the Moral Order of Society by Forgiveness and Reconciliation’, Aboriginal Issues Newsletter, 2:2 (1998), 1–2 at 2.

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  • 3

    See Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington: Allen and Unwin, Port Nicholson Press, 1987).

  • 5

    See Brij V. Lal, Islands of Turmoil: Elections and Politics in Fiji (Canberra: Asia Pacific Press, 2006).

  • 8

    Lal, Islands of Turmoil, p. 239; also Brij V. Lal, Intersections (Canberra: ANU E Press, 2012), p. 13.

  • 13

    Stephen McCarthy, ‘Soldiers, Chiefs and Church: Unstable Democracy in Fiji’, International Political Science Review, 32.5 (2011), 563–78.

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  • 14

    Paul Muldoon, ‘Reconciliation and Political Legitimacy: The Old Australia and the New South Africa’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 49: 2 (2003), 182–96 at 182.

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  • 16

    Chris Budden, Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2009).

  • 19

    Graeme Garrett, ‘A Place of One’s Own: Reflections on a Theology of Space’, St Mark’s Review (1993), 3–7 at 4.

  • 20

    Ibid., 4.

  • 22

    Dominic O’Sullivan, Faith Politics and Reconciliation: Catholicism and the Politics of Indigeneity (Adelaide: The Australian Theological Forum and Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2005).

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  • 24

    Ibid., 4.

  • 25

    Dominic O’Sullivan, ‘Covenants, Treaties and the Politics of Reconciliation’, Uniting Church Studies, 16:1 (2010), 29–37 at 29.

  • 28

    Pope John Paul II, ‘Meeting with New Zealand Bishops’, Peace: The Message of the Gospel, Complete Texts of Addresses Given by Pope John Paul II during His Pastoral Visit to New Zealand, 22–24 November 1986 (Wellington: Catholic Communications for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, 1986) p. 29.

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  • 29

    Henry Reynolds, Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State, and Nation (St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1996).

  • 35

    Rudd, Kevin, ‘Full Transcript of PMs Speech’, The Australian (13 February 2008),

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  • 37

    See Roger Maaka and Augie Fleras, The Politics of Indigeneity: Challenging the State in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2005) and James Tully, ‘Aboriginal Peoples: Negotiating Reconciliation’, in James Bickerton and Alain Gagnon, eds, Canadian Politics (Ontario: Hadleigh, 1999).

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  • 42

    O’Sullivan, ‘Covenants, Treaties and the Politics of Reconciliation’, 35.

  • 44

    See Dominic O’Sullivan, Beyond Biculturalism (Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2007).

  • 50

    See Paul McHugh, ‘Setting the Statutory Compass: The Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004’, NZJPIL, 3 (2005), 255–83.

  • 55

    Roger Maaka, and Augie Fleras, The Politics of Indigeneity: Challenging the State in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2005).

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  • 59

    See Dominic O’Sullivan, ‘Democracy, Power and Indigeneity’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 57 (2010), 86–101 and Pope John XXIII, ‘Pacem in Terris’ (11 April 1963), [accessed 10 October 2013].

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  • 60

    See Pope John Paul II, The Code of Canon Law (London: Collins Liturgical Publications, 1983).

  • 67

    Michael Field, ‘Military Ruler Lets Old Priest Stay’, Stuff, [accessed 31 January 2013].

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