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Anglican Indigenous Network meets in Australia despite terrorist attacks in America

[Episcopal News Service]  Although the American representatives were not able to travel because of the September 11 terrorist attacks, members of the Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN) met in Cairns, Australia on September 19. As a member of the Episcopal Council on Indigenous Ministry and leader of the Hawaiian delegation, Malcolm Chun, represented the Americans by proxy.

Before the meetings, members of the network joined in the consecration of the new aboriginal bishop, James Leftwich, and a retirement celebration for his predecessor, Arthur Malcolm. As the meeting began, the delegations took time to explore the diversity of the Aborigines and the uniqueness of the Torres Strait Islanders.

The Canadians reported on the current status of lawsuits brought by those who claim they were abused in residential schools run by the churches on behalf of the government and introduced a new document, 'A New Agape,' a plan for justice, healing and reconciliation of relationships. They also presented a new video of Sacred Circle 2000, 'Walking a New Vision.'

The original agenda had intended to focus on issues such as youth, concerns of women, and land but, with the changes in attendance, the participants moved to an open plenary on the future of the network.

Bishop Hui Vercoe of Aotearoa (New Zealand) called for the network to consider the future of theological education centres.

'The form and order that we talk of and use is way too dependent upon dominant culture and church,' he said. 'We must enable and empower our laity to be an equal part of the leadership of the church, not just priests and bishops.'

Canadian First Nations delegate, Donna Bomberry, said that the network was important in giving support and inspiration to the indigenous people of Canada. 'AIN has supported the Canadian church,' she said. 'Maintaining who we are is terribly important for the indigenous people in Canada. We need the lifelines and linkages and communication with others sharing our common issues.'

By resolution the network reaffirmed its commitment to the need for self-determination and also support for the Gwich'in Nation in Alaska which is opposing the exploration and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The network also hopes to establish an office of general secretary. The next meeting will be in early 2003 in New Zealand.