Territorial Aboriginal programme and ministry consultant Lloyd Hollingsworth attended an international meeting of more than 400 Christian Indigenous peoples in New Zealand last month, on behalf of the Salvation Army’s Australia Southern Territory.
There were more than 18 different Indigenous races represented at the conference, which was held at Auckland University in the institution’s ‘marae’, or holy place (a Maori church building that serves as the heart of a community). The delegates spoke, shared, ate and slept in the marae for four 18-hour days.
As well as several African nations, other countries represented included Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Samoa, Mongolia, the US, Vanuatu and Venezuela.
A central concern for the conference participants was the church’s complicit participation in a history of aggression. The distortion of the gospel, says Lloyd, leads to ‘the wiping out of languages, which in turn destroys culture, law and tradition’.
‘When the church is reduced to functioning as an arm of government then the church loses its purity and doesn’t stand as an effective witness and protection against invasion, subjugation and exploitation on the grandest scale.’
Reflecting on the event, Lloyd says ‘it was a huge learning curve for me, and God taught me many lessons. I shared with lawyers, professors and PhDs by the score: our purpose was to support one another and to learn from each other.
‘We shared our stories,’ said Lloyd, ‘and I realised the ongoing impact of European domination of the world’s first peoples, having pillaged and conquered us for our land and our natural resources.’
As Lloyd explains, the tragic aftermath of conquest leaves ‘people in despair, deprivation and poverty that are beyond description – that poverty continues.’