Uluru at sunset, glowing red and looking majestic, creates a mystery all of its own. It is a symbol of Australia and a sacred place for Indigenous Australians. It is now protected and closed for climbing.
This important decision is made out of respect for the local Anangu people. It has not been welcomed by everyone. At times the discussion has descended into harsh words about rights. This has been unsettling. The dominant culture (European) does not enjoy being limited by another culture (Indigenous).
Tensions between cultures often complicate the work of mission. Cultural differences are brought into focus whenever one culture attempts to dominate another. In such moments of tension the purpose, appreciation and comprehension of the other is lost, and relationships are limited. There are other ways of handling these moments.
One is to listen with the sole intent of understanding the other. A deep listening that grows relationships and compassion. The person in the dominant cultural position can learn so much through listening to the other, who may have felt silenced or marginalised. Out of such compassion and understanding relationships grow, and so does grace.
People surrounded Jesus and were bringing their children to him. The disciples rebuked them, because they felt the children were not important enough to warrant his attention. Jesus is not happy about this, and affirms that those who respond to Jesus like the children will enter the kingdom (Mark 10:13-16). Power is reversed. The vulnerable are protected and a new reality is proclaimed. In this story, the adult culture of who matters most is transformed. Such reversals of power and status in the kingdom are described throughout the gospel narratives.
Mission initiatives that challenge the ways power works and how people are treated may not always be understood, or even appreciated by everyone. But they are important to open the pathway for people to grow in their appreciation of the grace and love of God. Deep listening leads to deeper sharing.
You can support the work of Indigenous Ministries Australia by buying an IMA great gift: www.greatgifts.org.au