The coming of a spiritual age must be preceded by the appearance of an increasing number of individuals who are no longer satisfied with the normal, intellectual, vital, and physical existence of the human race, but perceive that a greater revolution is the real goal of humanity and attempt to effect it in themselves and lead others to it.
- Teilhard de Chardin
It is almost as if Teilhard, when he wrote these words, had in mind the vision and work of the Edmund Rice Centre, its staff and wonderful group of volunteers and supporters.
It was 21 or was it 22 years ago that I was invited to attend a meeting with Br Dan Stewart, Br Jude Butcher and Br Peter Hancock. Dan was on the provincial leadership team of the Christian Brothers at that time. He wanted to set up something that would have as its focus human rights and justice issues and he wanted to discuss this with a small group. The name, Phil Glendenning came up as a possible animator for the centre –and the rest is history.
For many years now the Centre has challenged us to see life from the perspective of those who suffer hardship in our homeland and world. It has also challenged us to glimpse some future possibilities for a “new heaven and a new earth”. It has called each of us, our institutions and politicians to examine our own contribution to oppression and redemption, within the local and wider community of life.
One of many important initiatives of the Centre that I particularly like is the “Let’s Talk” cross-cultural immersion program. Through direct contact, indigenous and non-indigenous come together across a historical divide of centuries of misunderstanding and mistreatment, to listen, reconcile and learn from each other. What could be more important for the national consciousness?
Looking back over the years, there has been scarcely an issue of local, national and international significance in the area of human rights and ecological justice that the centre has not said, “Let’s talk” about this. “Let’s talk” to each other, the media, politicians and international bodies such as the United Nations and its many branches. And “Let’s Do” something about this together.
In all their community involvement, the members of the Centre see themselves in partnership. There is a deep realization that all are involved in a process of mutual liberation when working for justice. This is most evident in the friendship between members of the Centre and the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu as they struggle together to address the effects of rising sea levels on low-lying islands and communities.
Lila Watson, an Aboriginal elder from Queensland, summed up this principle, of liberation theology and praxis that is so much part of the Edmund Rice Centre
If you have come to help me you are wasting your time: but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
Congratulations on 21 years of wonderful mutual involvement in all levels of community engagement. May there be many more.
Valda Dickinson is an animator and educator with the Sisters of Mercy.