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Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: A Pathway from Australia to Arizona

by Dave Weiman
from Cooking Together

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees voted to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by Dave Weiman, who has been working with others to educate UUs about this issue. – Ed.

At 7:30 pm on December 3, 2009, Joy Murphy Wandin, senior woman of the Wurundjeri People, was the first person to greet the 6,000 plus people who had come together for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, with this traditional ‘Welcome to the Land’:

On behalf of the spiritual ancestors and the traditional owners of Melbourne, I invite you to Melbourne in 2009, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to share in the traditions, culture and spirit of Australia.

I was impressed that special recognition was given to the Peoples who had nurtured the land for thousands of years.   The welcoming practice not just for the opening, occurred at the beginning of almost every event during the Parliament, large or small.  And in fact, at the start of Sunday Service at the local Unitarian Church, the same basic welcoming statement started the service.  It is important to note that the words in these messages of welcome are of and by the Peoples who are native to the land, not from government officials.

At the final Plenary of the Parliament more than a dozen Indigenous Peoples from around the globe, presented a ‘Statement to the World.’  The Statement explained Indigenous cultures and contributions, the negative outcomes of colonization, and the injustices suffered by Indigenous Peoples.   It concluded with seven ‘appeals’.  Of the seven, two became an important focus of my social justice work when I returned home.  One asked for all nations to implement and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration), and another asked for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery (Doctrine).

From the opening moment of the Parliament to its closing, I was being drawn into a social justice cause about which I had known virtually nothing.  Since the Parliament I’ve been learning more, about the Declaration and the Doctrine, and come to understand why these are so important, not only for Indigenous Peoples, but for all of us.

Religious leaders pressure Australian government on climate change

From the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne News and Views

Twenty-eight religious leaders will converge on Canberra on 2 June to pressure the federal government to act on climate change.  Representatives from many different faiths, acting under the banner of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), will meet with Julia Gillard, Greg Hunt, Andrew Wilkie and around twenty other Members of Parliament.

Bishop George Browning, a member of the delegation, said the time to act is now.  “Our generation has been given humanity’s last chance to avert a climate emergency. Our grandchildren will just have to bear with the results of what we decide to do now,” Bishop Browning said.  Formerly the bishop of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Browning, who is now the Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said that climate change skeptics were preventing Australia moving in the right direction.  “The naysayers are holding Australia back from taking responsible action with their fear-mongering and misinformation. Not only can we act, we must act.”

Click here to read the full article

For more on the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, please visit their website.

Melbourne to Celebrate One-Year Anniversary of Parliament

One year after the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the city has changed for the better.  The world’s largest interreligious event brings people together from all over the world, and certainly has a global impact, but nowhere is that impact more noticeable than in the host city itself.

Join the celebration of a newly-invigorated interreligious movement:

“A World of Difference…Just Around the Corner”

Sunday 14 November 2010

Click here for registration information

Click here to download the flier

November 4th, 2010 at 6:23 am

2009 Parliament Statement of Indigenous People

An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World

Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions

Convened at Melbourne, Australia

on the Traditional Lands

of the Wurundjeri  People of the Kulin Nation

December 9, 2009


In keeping with the theme of this year’s Parliament: “Make a World of Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth,” We, the Indigenous Peoples participating in this Parliament hereby issue this statement:

We are Indigenous Peoples and Nations who honor our ancestors and care for our future generations by preserving our lands and cultures. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have maintained a fundamental and sacred relationship with Mother Earth. As peoples of the land, we declare our inherent rights to our present and continuing survival within our sacred homelands and territories throughout the world;

We commend the Australian government’s recent support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on all governments to support and implement the provisions of the UN Declaration.

Since time immemorial we have lived in keeping with our sacred laws, principles, and spiritual values, given by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on thousands of years of accumulated ecological knowledge, a great respect for our Mother Earth, a reverence and respect for all our Natural World relations and the survival of our languages, cultures, and traditions.

The Indigenous instructions of sharing and the responsibility of leadership to future generations are wise and enduring. As the traditional nations of our lands we affirm the right to educate our children in our earth-based education systems in order to maintain our indigenous knowledge systems and cultures. These have also contributed to our spiritual, physical and mental health;

Indigenous peoples concept of health and survival is holistic, collective and individual.

Indigenous Elders

It encompasses the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical and the emotional. Expressions of culture relevant to health and survival of Indigenous Peoples includes relationships, families, and kinship, social institutions, traditional laws, music, dances, songs and songlines, ceremonies and dreamtime, our ritual performances and practices, games, sports, language, mythologies, names, land, sea, water, every life forms, and all documented forms and aspects of culture, including burial and sacred sites, human genetic materials, ancestral remains, so often stolen, and our artifacts;

Unfortunately, certain doctrines have been threatening to the survival of our cultures, our languages, and our peoples, and devastating to our ways of life. These are found in particular colonizing documents such as the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493, which called for the subjugation of non-Christian nations and peoples and “the propagation of the Christian empire.” This is the root of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that is still interwoven into laws and policies today that must be changed. The principles of subjugation contained in this and other such documents, and in the religious texts and documents of other religions, have been and continue to be destructive to our ways of life (religions), cultures, and the survival of our Indigenous nations and peoples. This oppressive tradition is what led to the boarding schools, the residential schools, and the Stolen Generation, resulting in the trauma of language death and loss of family integrity from the actions of churches and governments. We call on those churches and governments to put as much time, effort, energy and money into assisting with the revitalization of our languages and cultures as they put into attempting to destroy them.

The doctrines of colonization and dominion have laid the groundwork for contemporary problems of racism and dispossession. These problems include the industrial processes of resource exploitation and extraction by governments and corporations that has consistently meant the use of imposed laws to force the removal of Indigenous peoples from our traditional territories, and to desecrate and destroy our sacred sites and places. The result is a great depletion of biodiversity and the loss of our traditional ways of life, as well as the depletion and contamination of the waters of Mother Earth from mining and colonization.

Such policies and practices do not take into account that water is the first law of life and a gift from the Creator for all beings. Clean, healthy, safe, and free water is necessary for the continuity and well being of all living things. The commercialization and poisoning of water is a crime against life.

The negative ethics of contemporary society, discovery, conquest, dominion, exploitation, extraction, and industrialization, have brought us to today’s crisis of global warming. Climate change is now our most urgent issue and affecting the lives of indigenous peoples at an alarming rate. Many of our people’s lives are in crisis due to the rapid global warming. The ice melt in the north and rapid sea rise continue to accelerate, and the time for action is brief.

The Earth’s resources are finite and the present global consumption levels are unsustainable and continue to affect our peoples and all peoples. Therefore, we join the other members of the Parliament in calling for prompt, immediate, and effective action at Copenhagen to combat climate change;

On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In support of this historic event, the Episcopalian Church in the United States adopted a resolution at its 76th General Convention in July 2009, repudiating and disavowing the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery. By doing so, the Church took particular note of the charter issued by King Henry VII of England to John Cabot and his sons, which authorized the colonizing of North America. It was by this ‘boss over’ tradition of Christian discovery that the British crown eventually laid claim to the traditional territories of the Aboriginal nations of the continent now called Australia, under terra nullius and terra nullus. This step by the Episcopalian Church was an act of conscience and moral leadership by one of the world’s major religions. Religious bodies of Quakers and Unitarians have taken similar supportive actions.

In Conclusion, we appeal to all people of conscience to join with us: We hereby call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Dominion.

Click here to download this document.

Professor Desmond Cahill’s Work with Immigrants

Prof. Desmond Cahill

Prof. Desmond Cahill

From Moonee Valley Weekly

PROFESSOR Desmond Cahill’s passion for spreading goodwill and the celebration of religious and cultural diversity is without question.

The 64-year-old Flemington resident, leader of intercultural studies at RMIT University, has for decades worked with waves of immigrants trying to integrate into their new home here.

This career started after another ended, with the former Catholic priest choosing his wife and a family over the priesthood, a decision he says is the hardest he has had to make.

“I had to make a choice. I made the choice and the rest is history. That was the most difficult decision I ever had to make. [But] it’s not one that I regret.”

Professor Cahill recalls the first wave of Italian and Maltese immigrants who ventured to Australia in the mid-’60s and needed support.

He says his pathway from priest to professor was logical because of his background working with migrants. He has worked at RMIT for decades, predominantly looking at the integration of ethnic communities, such as Latin Americans.

One of his main roles has been developing multicultural studies so that others could go and work with ethnic communities, and training others to teach Languages Other Than English courses in schools.

A Vietnamese program focusing on the integration of Vietnamese into Australian society started in the 1980s. It led to RMIT establishing a campus in Ho Chi Min City.

“It’s always brought me great satisfaction in working with immigrant communities and with immigrants and refugees who want to update their qualifications in Australia or train for new roles,” Professor Cahill says.

As well as his work in intercultural studies, Professor Cahill is chairman of the Australian chapter for Religions for Peace International, the world’s largest interfaith organisation.

In 2006, he led Melbourne’s successful bid to host last year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s largest interfaith gathering, which attracted 6500 delegates.

“It’s to bring the religions together in understanding and harmony and to develop joint actions on addressing the world’s major issues in climate change, social cohesion in multifaith societies, food and water for everyone, global peace.”

Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia this year for his service to intercultural education, Professor Cahill says he was humbled by the honour.

“It’s an award to me, but it’s also an award to my RMIT colleagues and to my colleagues in the interfaith movement throughout Australia and the world.”

Professor Cahill says his work in promoting goodwill has given him great satisfaction.

“[The best part] is bringing people together, especially in Australia, through the whole multifaith movement and bringing about harmony between the different multicultural communities and between the different religions.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Sister Joan Chittister and the Holiness of Women


By Katherine Marshall

“Women are the boldest and most unmanageable of revolutionaries,” Sister Joan Chittister said last week.

Especially religious women. Set against the sorry sagas of errant priests and male church leaders reluctant to confront past and present misdeeds, stories about the courage and st

Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister

amina of women religious leaders offer a breath of fresh air.

Religious women are rarely seen as ardent feminists. Many religions have worked to keep women in the background. Today, however, many of the most thoughtful and determined advocates for women’s rights and empowerment come with strong religious links.

The same is true where peace is concerned. A quiet, often invisible group of women with strong religious ties is working relentlessly for peace in many corners of the world. There are some efforts to link them so their voices and impact are amplified, including the Global Peace Initiative for Women, which Sister Joan co-chairs. But these networks are still fragile and limited.

Sister Joan acknowledges that religion can put moats between women, with a “theological acid” that makes religions puny and dangerous. Many feminist groups look askance at religion, including women who lead with a spiritual face or voice. But women’s quests can be seen as profoundly spiritual, whether or not they are labeled that way. Bridging the moats needs first and foremost some better knowledge and understanding.

It’s interesting to look at the deep roots some women’s religious communities bring to their work for peace. The Benedictines, for example, worked over the centuries of the Middle Ages to reclaim Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. That was a time of great insecurity. People were not safe on the roads or in their towns. Soldiers and policy offered no safety. Benedictine monasteries served as safe havens, or hospices, each one no more than a day’s ride from the next. In the chaotic Europe of the time, the monasteries were the anchor and the sign of peace at every level.

So, “if you are a Benedictine, peace is on your mind”, Sister Joan asserts. Benedictines take a vow of stability, not of chastity and poverty. They have a life long commitment to a particular community in a particular place. That sense of community is how Benedictine nuns see themselves and their social and civic responsibilities: it is in their DNA.

Click here to read the full article.

The Pluralism Project Features the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University has released a video as part of its “Educating Religious Leaders for a Multi-Religious World” initiative. The video focuses on the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne and the Council’s partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation. This partnership allowed for students and faculty of 15 theological institutions in the U.S. to participate at the Melbourne Parliament. While there, they expressed their findings as well as questions they encountered as members of a broader experience leading up to the events in Melbourne, which included coursework at their respective universities centered upon this theme of preparing religious leaders in a multi-religious world.

Click here to be taken to The Pluralism Project’s site.

Indigenous Assembly Addresses Doctrine of Discovery

From the Lewis and Clark Law Library,

Indigenous Peoples at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne Australia called for the Catholic Church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.

Indian Country Today reported in part: “The Doctrine, a fundamentally racist philosophy from the 15th century, continues to allow powerful nation-states to dehumanize people and devastate the living earth in their endless search for resources and markets, the delegation said.

Indigenous peoples from around the world, including a Haudenosaunee delegation, attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia Dec. 3 – 9. The Parliament is an interfaith organization formed in 1893 “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.” It meets every five years.

While the delegates came from diverse geographies and cultures, they easily unified around the intersecting themes of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and climate change. . .

Click here to read more.

Post Parliament Gala with Yusuf Islam

Breakthrough Summit on Women’s Rights in Melbourne

The International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) has organized a Breakthrough summit in Melbourne 2-3 Dec. which will coincide with the opening of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, writes The Age newspaper. Among the summit’s presenters, Sister Joan Chittister, a major speaker at the Parliament, will argue that “if the faith communities brought their faith to bear on public policy we would change the world overnight,” and the article broadly discusses the role of faiths in addressing injustices. The Parliament welcomes the IWDA’s efforts, with Executive Director Dirk Ficca praising the summit as model parliaments present and future.

To read the full article, click here.