Kenise Neill, South Auatralia and Northern Territory Regional Meeting

In quiet moments since my first Yearly Meeting (2019) I hear the words, “We are earth. What is Earth hearing and feeling?”

On the Sunday following our meeting the reading was the story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10: 25-37)  Jesus told us of two men who, living purely by the law, walked past a seriously injured man and left him to die. Then a Samaritan, a social and religious outcast, was moved by compassion and tended the man.  His merciful and tender response can move us from the cycle of separation to inclusion. There is no “they”— we are one.

A highlight of  our time together was  Jason McLeod’s 2019 Backhouse Lecture, Animating Freedom: Accompanying Indigenous struggles for self-determination. He presented a prophetic treatise on the way forward for Indigenous people and, more broadly, an invitation for all of us as we heal from our own colonial experience. How do we stop the cycle of transgenerational trauma and heal ourselves and others?

Over generations many peoples have been violated and subjugated and ultimately removed from their land when a dominant group took control. This has happened for Aboriginal people in Australia since 1788.  Many non-Indigenous peoples are descendants of cultural groups whose countries of origins were invaded and their inhabitants were dispossessed of land and basic human rights.

When Jason spoke about animating freedom in the context of historical and continuing colonisation he said,

the colonial project is alive and well —around and within us—even when we are clueless of its presence…empire is war in a concentrated and permanent form. Dismantling empire should be our core business. … In a country such as Australia, deep in denial about the frontier wars and the ongoing effects of colonialism, a shared commitment to animate freedom could be balm of our collective soul.[1]

“Children Are Asking” (c) Mary Southard CSJ

 I am wondering how I/we move from the place of privilege and power, dismantle patriarchy and change hierarchical structures that no longer serve us or our world. How do I/we elevate all from subjugation to freedom?” Sadly, across the world, opportunity, choice and outcomes are increasingly linked to skin colour, postcodes and/or the country in which people reside.

Jason invited a community movement from colonisation that contains tradition, invasion, warfare, poverty and welfare to decolonisation that will bring into being a new society, culture and organisation.[2]

Jason’s powerful depiction of a “healing” cosmology gives us a clear direction for the way forward from

Non-renewable energy to renewable energy; from hierarchical, unequal and competitive social relations and a society based on private ownership to a non-hierarchical, equal and cooperative social relationship. To a society that enables high levels of participation and is based primarily on common ownership and stewardship; from an underlying philosophy based on separateness and competition and a view of nature that sees human beings as selfish and aggressive. To a philosophy that is based on equality, cooperation, interconnectedness, sanctity of life, diverse ways of knowing and a view of human nature that recolonises variability and finally. from resolving conflict with strategies that are violent and focused on elite interests. To strategies that are non-violent, based on human needs and that protect life systems.[3]

 We cultivate an expanding heart that will sensitise us and others to the tragedy of separateness, violence, greed and pain. We focus on a heart-consciousness where we rejoice in the unity of life, and suffer over the violation of the gentle, tender and merciful. We will co-create the “good life” for all.  Together we hold in love the Indigenous People from West Papua. We know that we hold and are the “sacred heart” within Earth.

“The Treasure’s Within” (c) Mary Southard CSJ
Images displayed with permission.

I am grateful for the time in Hobart where I experienced a different way of being in conversation together.  It was a profound experience of listening, adjustment and a deep respect for each voice and especially the heartfelt concerns from “the edge”. One powerful example of  unity and consensus was the community discernment on children and young people being included in Yearly meeting.  I was deeply moved by the powerful witness to love and communion in this interaction.

A Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin, spoke about a planetary movement of people undergoing a radical change towards deeper respect and love. There is much evidence of an ancient spirit rising as we continue to work together to let go of our separation from nature and reconnect to close relationships with Earth and all Creation. What are we hearing and feeling? We are Earth!

 Today, something is happening to the whole structure of human consciousness.
A fresh kind of life is starting. Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world
are seeking each other, so that the world may come into being.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Kenise Neill has been attending the Quaker Meeting for worship at Leabrook in South Australia since June 2018. Kenise is a Sister of St Joseph and has worked in child protection for many years, mostly with Aboriginal children, families and communities.

[1] Jason Mcleod, Animating freedom: Accompanying Indigenous struggles for self -determination pp 55,57,58.  

[2] McLeod, Animating Freedom, p. 10.

[3] McLeod, Animating Freedom, p. 29

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