Dear friends, 

The prophet Amos called for a world flooded with righteousness: 

 ‘Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream’.

(Amos 5:24)

Approaching NAIDOC Week, we’d do well to reflect on it through the lens of Amos’ desire. NAIDOC week is promoted as a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It’s also an opportunity for ‘all Australians to all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.’ (www.naidoc.org.au). While the NAIDOC website acknowledges the history of this week and the contribution of Wiliam Cooper, many people may not be aware that Cooper’s heart for the cause of Australia’s first nations people was motivated by his faith. 

Cooper wrote a letter on 27th December, 1937, calling for a national Day of mourning for Indigenous people, coinciding with the rest of Australia’s ‘day of rejoicing’ (Australia Day). He called on not just the government – but churches – to make this day of mourning a reality. His request reflects a longing for ‘justice to roll’. Cooper hopes for at least 3 things (I’ll quote his letter, aware that some terms he uses are outdated and not representative of how we think and speak today): 

1. Recognise injustice and grief

In calling for a Day of mourning that EVERY Australian joins in, ‘the Aborigines, by this means, hope to call the attention to the present deplorable condition of all aborigine, of whatever stage of culture, after 150 years of British rule.’ Cooper understood if only the victims grieve, righteousness will not stream. He understood that godly grief is over sin in all forms – not just the sin that hurts me, but even the sin that ‘helps’ me. 

2. Provoke compassion and restore righteousness

Building on a shared grief there’s a call for common work to change: ‘It is expected that such action will create such sympathy on the part of whites that full justice & recompense will follow […] we know that sympathy with the aborigines is widespread and growing, and, because the aboriginal knows that the goodwill of the white man is essential to success they seek to justify the continuance of this sympathy’. NAIDOC week is right in being an opportunity for all Australians to unite, because only when all society works toward restoration can justice be realised. 

3. Promote the gospel

We request that sermons be preached on this day dealing with the aboriginal people and their need of the gospel and response to it and we ask that special prayer be invoked for all missionary and other effort for the uplift of the dark people.’ The deep roots of all injustice is spiritual – being out of step with our Maker and Saviour. The solution must also be spiritual – the transforming work of God by His Word and Spirit. 

As we celebrate NAIDOC week, we join William Cooper and the many Christians throughout history whose hearts have been convicted to see and love others the way God sees and loves us. We pray this week, shaped by the godly longing that ‘justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream’.

In Him, 

Mark Smith  
Senior Minister | Congregational Pastor 8am & 7pm