Australian Church calls for more support for Indigenous people

 The Church in Australia has again raised its voice in support of Aboriginal Australians. The archdiocese of Adelaide has called on religious groups to do more to help indigenous communities affected by abuse and violence. A Church spokesperson said: "the attempts we make as a community and churches to address these problems are simply not enough." He said it was necessary to intensify programmes of social, medical assistance, education and rehabilitation as the situation had deteriorated so badly. "It is a question not only of charity but also social justice" he said. After recent reports of sexual abuse and violence on Aboriginal communities, Caritas called for more attention to the question of integration in Australian society. The agency recalled that in the past 200 years the Aboriginal people have endured tremendous suffering. According to Caritas, policies for the forcible removal of land and many thousands of children from their families as well as laws forcing segregation denying access to social welfare and fundamental human rights, have all impacted on their quality of life. The Church in Australia has always given special attention to the situation of Aboriginal people. Recently, the recent reorganisation of the Bishops' Conference included 12 commissions one of which will deal with Relations with Aboriginal communities. Every year the Church organises National Reconciliation Week with a series of initiatives and events with testimony, formation meetings and reflection on the subject of reconciliation of European and Aboriginal communities recalling that "over 1,100 Aboriginal babies born prematurely or underweight, are destined to a life of health problems." Basic healthcare and education are, according to the Bishops' Commission, concrete expression of 'reconciliation'. Aboriginal people are about 2.4% of the entire population, but 16% of the population detained in prisons. They were almost exterminated in the 19th century in a series of local wars over fertile land which the natives used for hunting and the European settlers made into fields and pasture land. In the 20th century Australia's policies towards Aboriginal people did not improve. Up to 40 years ago Aboriginal children were taken from their parents to be raised by white families. It was only in 1967 that the Aboriginal people were recognised as full Australian citizens with all civil and political rights. At least 100,000 children were taken from their parents between 1930 and 1970, causing serious trauma individual and social. Today in Australia there are about 460,000 Aboriginal people. Most live below the poverty line and in situations of widespread unemployment and abuse of alcohol. Last week Pope Benedict urged the Australian Government to seek forgiveness from Indigenous Australians and address the "deep underlying causes" of their plight. The Age reported that he told the new Australian ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Maree Plunkett, that Aborigines' predicament caused much pain. Some of the contents of the speech were reported in CathNews on Friday, but further details - including the call for an apology - emerged on Monday. The Pope said: "I encourage you and the Government to continue to address with compassion and determination the deep underlying causes of their plight." "Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness - two indispensable elements for peace." The Prime Minister has consistently refused to apologise to Indigenous people and has criticised "the black armband view of history". He has also promoted the idea of "practical" reconciliation over "symbolic" reconciliation, saying that the health and welfare of Aborigines are more important than an apology. Source: Fides/Church Resources

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