Aborigines Turn to Faith for Help

( [email protected] ) Mar 08, 2004 08:02 AM EST

Sydney, Australia - In Australia, the Aborigines struggle day to day with violence and poverty while many drift apart from the traditional Aboriginal culture in this modern age. The Christian Church has had much influence on the Aboriginal community in a district of Sydney called Redfern. This influence began more than 200 years ago when European colonisation brought Christianity to Australia. By the mid 1800s, all Christian denominations had founded missions throughout the expanse of Australia.

Today, approximately 80 religious groups, charities and government agencies established in Redfern. The Redfern people are plagued with many problems, but drugs are particularly the largest offender to this community. Mick Mundine of a local Aboriginal housing company said "the spiritual side of things in this commmunity is very evil." "It's just hell here at the moment." The current condition of the Aboriginal community was not always drowning in alcohol and drugs.

In Australia's colonial history, missions have had both positive and negative effects upon the Aboriginal community. European missionaries had brought valuable medical knowledge and education that was very helpful to the Aborigines. But also, some missions had made drastic efforts to eliminate the native culture that the Aborigines had upheld. This also meant erasing their native language and certain ceremonies. The Aborigines had assimilated the Christian culture, but not necessarily the beliefs which had disastrous effects on the tribal people.

Even with this longstanding problems of the past, the positive changes that can be seen in the Redfern community seem to be the result of people accepting the Christian faith and applying it in their lives. Over two thirds of the Aboriginal population identify as Christians. New people have faith have found that Christianity is not too dissimilar from the tribal spirituality that their people once had. Father Joe Kelly of a Catholic outreach program revealed "They willingly accept doctrine and faith of Christianity but they accept it from the point of view of an Aboriginal culture," "They find there're great similarities between their traditional beliefs and the Gospels and the whole of the Bible, the Old Testament especially," he said.

Many Aborigines owe the problem of poverty, violence and drugs to the fact that people do not have any pride in being Aboriginal and that they reflexively always perceive themselves on the lower rung of society. Now, that many have discovered that they can still hold onto their culture and the Christian faith at the same time, the outlook for the Aboriginal people in Redfern has become more hopeful. This time, faith will bridge the gap between the lost culture and its people instead of expanding it.