Growing up in Australia, as I have, gives a person a unique insight into how the historical narratives of a nation are created to hide the crimes committed by the colonial power on the indigenous inhabitants of the land that occurred in the creation of that nation. I found Australia to be a really great place to grow up in. Visitors to my home country often fall in love with Australia. Australians in the main enjoy a high level of prosperity, good medical care, good education and a good deal of political freedom compared to other nations. As a young person I struggled with people who criticised Australia with particular regard to the plight of the Aboriginal population.

To my way of thinking back then, Aboriginals were very often just lazy, drunken dole bludgers who had no desire to achieve anything in life. They received government handouts by the tonne and seemed to have privileges that whites could never have. The liberal supporters of Aboriginal rights where just as much to blame (if not more) than the Aboriginal people themselves for this deplorable state of affairs.

I well remember my Gallipoli veteran uncle commenting about the apparent injustice of the land of Australia being taken away from Aboriginals by the British Empire. According to my dear Uncle Wally, the British were entitled to take the land from the indigenous population because the Aboriginals “did nothing with it”. It seems that the inability of Aboriginals to make any headway into the industrial age was reason enough for them to be dispossessed. As years went by I also heard, from a Christian perspective, that British colonialism was justified because how else could Aboriginals get to have the Bible and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and find salvation. Nowadays I hear from people (mostly, but not exclusively, on the political right) that Aboriginals should be grateful that it was the British that colonised the nation rather than other countries. Imagine if the Japanese had gotten hold of them?!

I’m embarrassed to say that it took quite a few years for me to see through all of this nonsense and come to some type understanding of the Aboriginal perspective of white settlement in Australia. I believe that the failure to achieve reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society in this country lies in great part to the failure of white society to officially admit to the crime of colonialism that was perpetrated in the founding of this nation and the theft of this land by the British Empire. To admit and to apologise. Trying to achieve reconciliation, while at the same time justifying British colonialism, is fundamentally self-defeating. Any attempt at reconciliation must be seen to be genuine by the injured party. This is simply not possible when the major beneficiaries of British colonialism are trying to justify it.

Imagine the case of a woman being raped, and her assailant trying (when apprehended by the law) to show his sorrow and remorse for the harm that he had done, while at the same time telling his victim that she should be grateful that he wore a condom during the attack and that it could have been much worse for her if other less civilised men had violated her! I doubt that anyone would be impressed by such a display of remorse! So it is with attempts to justify British colonialism by comparing its brutality favourably with the colonialism of other empires. It just doesn’t make sense in the spirit of reconciliation. It’s like someone bragging how humble they are: a basic contradiction in terms.

In terms of the spread of Christianity: it seems ridiculous to imagine that colonialism is the only way to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ! The words of the apostle Paul spring to mind when he deals with those who claim that he has taught people to say…”Let us do evil that good may come of it? Their condemnation is deserved.” Rom 3:8. Scripture allows no justification for the spread of the gospel by evil means.

I liken the situation to slavery. Not all slave owners were as brutal as each other. Some even showed benevolent tendencies towards their slaves. Without doubt slavery brought positive advantages to American society (like wealth for example) and it could even be said that slavery ultimately brought advantages to some slaves and many of their descendants. But all this is not the point. It is the institution of slavery itself that is abhorrent regardless of the fact that some slave owners were better than others or that some ultimate benefits may have been given to the slaves themselves. Slavery is fundamentally about violation of ones rights no matter how nicely it is dressed up and colonialism is just the same. It is a violation no matter who the colonialist power is.

The Christian faith was introduced to many slaves in the U.S. where they would have otherwise not have been able to hear the gospel, yet no Christian tries to justify slavery on the basis that it is a means to spread the good news about Jesus to savages! International Law has declared colonialism to be illegal and a violation of human rights. It is no surprise to me that countries like the U.S., Australia and, up until recently, apartheid South Africa have all vigorously supported the colonialist project of Zionist Israel in Palestine. These countries were all founded on the blood of indigenous peoples and hence have shown a great indifference to giving a voice to the cries for justice by the people of Palestine.

With God and International Law going against colonialism in our world, it’s hard to imagine why any Christian would still be supporting it in Israel/Palestine.

CRAIG NIELSEN

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