Activist despairs at state of ‘left’ at times

4 Bradford blessing

Churches have resources to advance Treaty of Waitangi justice and other, related, justice issues that activists like Sue Bradford can only dream about.
That is what the former Green Party MP told an audience at the launch of “Listening to the People of the Land — Christianity, Colonisation and the Path to Redemption”, at the St Columba Centre in Ponsonby on February 22. The book was published by Pax Christi
Aotearoa New Zealand and was edited by Susan Healy.

Ms Bradford, 66, said that she despairs at times at the state of the activist political “left”, but she expressed a hope that it will get its act together at some time in the future on issues like Treaty justice, even if this happens beyond her lifetime.

“For those of us in the part of the political landscape that I call home, it is really on our shoulders to keep trying to encourage, assisting organisations and nurturing new ones so that, step by step, some political power is developed.

“It is a mighty political task ahead of us . . . but there are young people keen to learn and act.”

Later she added: “Those of you who are part of churches have resources to draw on that those of us on the outside can only ever dream of, even if you don’t realise how much you have.”

She harked back to a time in the 1990s when the “long gone” Conference of Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand funded the “Building Our Own Future” project. This involved a coming together of church and non-church people dedicated to “building a decolonised future”.

The process resulted in a “people’s charter” document that began to point some ways forward, Ms Bradford said.

But there has been nothing like it that she knows of since then.

“It is perhaps not only the radical left where more progress could be made on bringing both people and resources to bear on more effective collective action on this kaupapa,” Ms Bradford suggested.

She started her talk by mentioning some of her settler ancestors who had links to the Church Missionary Society (Anglican). She spoke of how she wanted, from a young age, to redeem the harm her ancestors had done as “part of the spearhead of colonisation and

“In all these questions I was asking, I was trying to interrogate my ancestors, these people who are part of me, and whom I really wanted to understand; it has taken all these years before finally, here is a book that goes directly and deeply into their world and makes a
very similar interrogation.”

Ms Bradford thanked the book’s editor and its contributors. The book not only looks back, but it also looks at paths ahead.

“Facing up to the truth of our history and acting on it is a task which all settler descendents face, or should face,” Ms Bradford said.

She acknowledged the many people at the launch who have made this their priority, within institutions or not.

Issues like social and economic justice, as well as ecological justice, cannot be disconnected from Treaty justice, she added. She praised contributors to the book
who had made similar points.

She also noted that Māori have made significant contributions on possibilities for “constitutional transformation”, but “what is our response?”

Ms Bradford said that Susan Healy, in the book’s foreword, talks about “how we can start to address the truths of our past, not as possums caught in the headlights, but as people of honour”.

The book has five parts: Getting beyond Colonial Myths; Works of Conversion; Listening, Dialogue, Learning; Recovering Treasures of the Christian Heritage; Responses and Further Reflections (which includes international perspectives). Among the writers are Mary Betz, Sr Helen Bergin, OP, and Fr Peter McDermott, SM.

The editor stated she had two main aims – firstly, to look at the underlying causes of the harm in colonisation and Christianity’s contribution to that harm, and, secondly, to search out how Christian churches and those of general Christian persuasion could play their part in healing the deep-seated ills of colonisation.

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Michael Otto

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