Dr John Harris, author of One Blood, a landmark study into 200 years of Aboriginal encounter with Christianity, discusses the impact of European missionaries on Aboriginal Culture.
Out of a burning conviction that “God made of one blood all nations”, Christians have carried their message to Aborigines throughout Australia. It is this encounter and its results that John Harris explores in these many stories that tell one story: how, in the face of abuse, paternalism, prejudice, isoluation and crippling hardship, the Christian gospel was brought to Aboriginal people. Although sometimes blind to their own faults, those who brought this message were remarkable people of great compassion and courage.
For two centuries, this activity was a major force in the lives of the indigenous people of Australia. Christian missions were sometimes places of regimentation marked by a loss of freedom; often, too, they were places of survival and refuge for a suffering people. The missions may seem to have failed, yet from many of them are emerging distinctive Aboriginal churches with strong Aboriginal leadership.
This is a sensible and balanced discussion of the good and not-so-good aspects of Christian missions to the Aboriginal people. Not all Christian missionaries were British imperialists or social Darwinists. Some were humble and committed Christians who genuinely loved Aboriginal people and were genuinely loved back. A lot of good was done, despite the fact that modern revisionists seem only to remeber the bad.
This interview is found as an audio podcast on Centre For Public Christianity.