CALL IT UNITY DAY, NOT INVASION DAY OR AUSTRALIA DAY
“My children say to me, ‘Happy Invasion Day, Dad.’ But I say to them, ‘Happy Unity Day.'”
These powerful words come from Pastor James Dargin, a recognized Indigenous leader and elder in Wollongong, who has a deep love for people and for Australia.
James has seen much pain and suffering in his life and his message is simple: we need to forgive so we can build a united future for our children. The only way to do that, he believes, is to stop the division and work together.
According to James, there is no better opportunity to practice this value than on Australia’s national holiday. “Let’s not change the date of the 26th of January,” he says. “But let’s change our hearts on the 26th of January.”
In explaining why he is such a strong believer in forgiveness, James opens up about his childhood: “I grew up with mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse. I was tied to a bed, and my brother was tied under our house. My brother was put on a stove. I grew up with racism. I grew up with a lot of abuse. And it got to a point for me to hide that abuse is that I was on alcohol and drugs for forty years straight.”
But that was not the end of his story. He recounts that “At the age of 50, I gave my heart to the Lord. He changed my heart. I have forgiven the people that have hurt me and I’ve forgiven family members.” Why? “When I gave my heart to the Lord, I realised He forgave me. He died on the cross for me.”
As a result, James is convinced that division over issues like Australia Day is unproductive and ultimately destructive. He has a better vision for how we can celebrate:
“Let’s come together and call it Unity Day, Forgiveness Day — to forgive each other, to love one another. It should be a day of celebration, of love. Hug someone. Forgive somebody. Love somebody. That’s what we should be celebrating. What happened in the past was horrific. Let’s come together, let’s build a future for the next generation.”