The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for Makarrata. So what is it, and what hope does it give for the future of Australia?
Makarrata can be used in a bait and switch way to punish invaders. The bait is to define the word as "peace after a dispute," but the switch is to discover it's fuller meaning is that of violent payback.
Makarrata literally means, "spear penetrating."
According to the ABC's explainer, "Makarrata literally means a spear penetrating, usually the thigh, of a person that has done wrong… so that they cannot hunt anymore, that they cannot walk properly, that they cannot run properly; to maim them, to settle them down, to calm them — that's Makarrata."
A crippling blow to subdue the criminal conduct. If this is what is being asked by the Uluru Statement, then that's quite an alarming switch we need to be wary of. A profound danger for the future of reconciliation in Australia.
There is more to Makarrata, which actually has profound promise for the future.
As my dearly departed Aboriginal Elder mate Ron Williams told me, within Aboriginal law, in such "spear penetrating" situations, a substitution can be made. If an uncle steps forward to offer his own thigh be speared on behalf of the offender, the offender can be reconciled to the tribe by the spearing of the substitute. The shedding of the uncle's blood reconciles the offender.
If you haven't already noticed - that is exactly what we need! There is no way that people today can atone for the wrongs done by people of the past to other people of the past. Yet a debt must be paid. It can only be paid by a substitute for the people of the past. And that substitute must be good, preferably having no guilt of his own to atone for, yet be willing to pay the price in full for the offender.
And we have such a substitute.
Only one. Yet the perfect substitute.
It turns out he already has paid Makarrata, for us, and paid it in full. Literally a "spear penetrating" into his side, and blood and water flowed that proved he had made the ultimate sacrifice of death. As a substitute. On behalf of... us. You, me, "them," everybody. Not just for crimes against indigenous peoples, but for crimes against non-indigenous too. Not just for our crimes against other people, but for our crimes against the Great Creator of all things! Who could be such a worthy sacrifice for that, but God himself in the flesh?
This once-for-all Makarrata substitute introduces into our current debates the one thing necessary, yet mostly excluded: the one way to forgiveness. Mutual, true, heartfelt forgiveness. Because the Makarrata has been paid in full. By no less than the Great Creator Spirit in Person. Let that penetrate your mind. And then your heart. And then awaken your soul.
It takes humility to realise that we are guilty of crimes requiring Makarrata. It takes humility to repent from them. And yet more humility to accept that we can't make amends ourselves and never can, the offence is too great - that we are totally dependent on a substitute.
It takes humility to realise that when the substitute has already paid in full, I can no longer exact revenge from the offenders.
In this case, humility is needed all round. Substitutionary Makarrata is the only way to the "peace after a dispute" that Australia really needs.