Imagine going to an event, as I did last night, where political candidates for the upcoming federal election are asked about what kind of leader they aspire to be, about what kind of leadership might best meet the challenges that are facing our local, regional, and global communities and their moral and physical environments. Imagine imagining that you were expecting to hear names like Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Mary Robinson, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi (who today celebrates her 71st birthday), Lowitja O’Donoghue, Desmond Tutu, Dag Hammarskjold, Jonathan Sacks, Rowan Williams, Fred Hollows, Eva Burrows, Muhammad Yunus, or Noel Pearson, and instead being told by one of those political aspirants that the best models of leadership today are those championed by Ronald Regan, David Cameron, and John Key. Tea, anyone?
I’m immensely grateful that there were some other – some more sagacious – voices present, a reminder that our parliament also has some good people serving in it and that many who aspire to serve in such a way are also of outstanding ilk, even if I disagree with them on some matters that we both agree are fundamental for the healthy flourishing of life.
I’m also encouraged that the event itself was hosted by two churches who believe that part of their service to the wider community is to create safe spaces where such conversations might occur. There can be no healthy society without a rigorous and safe public commons. It is, above all, the role of the constitution, the courts, and the parliament (including its organisations such as the Human Rights Commission) and not the church to ensure the existence of such spaces. But that need not preclude religious communities also making such space available.