‘People from every nation can come together—every nation—black or white or Chinese or Indian. The cross is the way to meaning, forgiveness.’ – Ikuntji Elder Kieran Malta
Forty years ago, the leaders of the Ikuntji community had the vision to establish a giant cross on top of rugged and majestic Memory Mountain, 230km west of Alice Springs.
After many years of faith and hard work, the dream has become a reality with the Forgiveness Cross set to be officially launched this Easter. There’s a great story behind this 20-metre-high steel structure which had hoped to be finished many years ago. But the fact its launch was delayed to 2023 is somewhat of a God-incidence. That’s because 2023 will be exactly one hundred years since four young indigenous evangelists first preached the gospel at Memory Mountain, bringing a message of forgiveness to a culture that really didn’t have any understanding of it. Tradition said that if you did something wrong, you would suffer for it with payback and retribution, which could include the spilling of blood. But these four young men explained what Christ has done on the cross through His blood. He was speared in his side and his blood went into the ground to bring us true forgiveness that lasts forever.
Their message hugely impacted the tribal peoples in the western desert with hundreds coming to know Christ and being baptised. Memory Mountain is named in memory of this Christian heritage which is still being felt today by the Ikuntji people, including Alison Bolton, who has been one of the main carriers of this 40-year vision. Alison was the first to describe this new landmark as the forgiveness cross.
Years of fighting bureaucratic red tape, fundraising, engineering challenges and searing heat have all been overcome to see this beacon of hope now standing tall in the very heart of our nation.
‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors … We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.’ 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV
Their dream has caught the attention of many, including internationally renowned photographer Ken Duncan who has been a key advocate for the project, ever since he first heard about it on a visit to the area years ago. Ken is extremely excited to see the cross standing tall in the heart of Australia and notes it is not a statement about race;
‘they’re not saying we forgive white people. They’ve already done that. They’re saying, “God, forgive us all for trying to do things in our own way and let’s get the focus back on Jesus, whether black, white, or whatever colour.” At a time when there’s problems in Alice Springs and all around, it’s not about money, it’s about hopelessness. We need to basically get out here and walk a while with each other because we can learn so much from them and this forgiveness.’
Indigenous Australians from far and wide will gather at Memory Mountain this Easter weekend to celebrate their faith and culture, and express their gratitude for fulfilling their long-held vision to erect the cross. They’ve thrown open an invitation for others to come join in lifting up the name of Jesus over our nation.
Vision’s CEO Phil Edwards will be among them and taking part. While there, Phil will also be broadcasting live on Vision Christian Radio on Resurrection Sunday Morning, bringing everyone a glimpse into this significant event.
‘I’m really excited to be able to stand united with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in a time of so much division, and together declare to the nation the hope we have in Jesus.’ Phil said. ‘I am so moved by the fact this is an initiative of the Indigenous people themselves, and that their core message is forgiveness. That’s incredibly significant.’
Please tune in and tell your friends. Or for the adventurous, you could even come and share in the celebration in person, although it’s important to note there are zero facilities at Memory Mountain yet (so visitors need to be completely self-reliant)—but there’s loads of space to camp. See www.memorymountain.com.au
Images courtesy of Ken Duncan