Sorry is always a good starting point to begin some form of honest conversation around historical relationships between people, especially when one group of people has been dehumanized by the other for generations. Sorry does not however imply that everything is okay, nor does it suggest that the hurt committed is acceptable; it is only a means to be broader process of encountering the past hurts and historical injustices that have been meted out to a peoples. It is heartening to read that the new government of Australia headed by Kevin Rudd is seriously contemplating to finally say Sorry to the Aborigines, who for generations have been considered nothing more than flora and fauna. The intent to begin a process of healing by saying Sorry is a fundamental shift from John Howard, the former Aussie Prime Minister, who just refused to say Sorry to the aborigines.

The current opposition leader Brendan Nelson has reacted sharply and criticized Rudd for prioritizing an apology to the Aboriginal stolen generations for things done by earlier generations. Perhaps this is the crux of the dilemma faced by descendants of a colonial generation. Should the present generation be responsible for historical injustices committed by past generations? The answer is Yes, if a society wishes to genuinely engage in a process of complete healing and re-humanization, and to enable the society to move forward to the future on the basis of mutual respect. It is tragic that political leaders have not quite fully understood how historical injustices burden the paths of the future in ways that are not quite comprehensible.    

It takes enormous strength and political will to be able to say Sorry, largely because there is so much of fear and a lack of understanding of what Sorry exactly entails and what it means. History has quite clearly shown that only those political leaders with some sense of vision and will have the political courage to take the profound leap of faith to acknowledge historical injustices meted out by their ancestors and to say Sorry for hurts which they are not responsible for at all. Yet, it is the process that emerges out of the act of apology that shapes the future profoundly towards a direction of inclusiveness and healing. 

For people who have been wronged and on the receiving end of perpetual injustices, an apology is a form of public acknowledgement in which their injustices are being recognized, and not brushed under the carpets. It’s a step that allows them to begin the process of breaking from a hurtful past to that of people who have survived to build a future that allows them to regain their lost dignity. An apology is not really going to advance their lives or enhance their capacities to rebuild their shattered lives, but it is a fundamental necessity to enable a reconciliation process to begin. An apology serves as a bridge and as Rudd stated, “The key thing is to build a bridge with indigenous Australia through an apology, through saying sorry, because that bridge is a pathway to respect.” 

Sorry is not just a social and spiritual necessity, it is foremost a political act with consequences that go far beyond politics; it impacts all spheres of human life. At this time when Australians are engaging each other around the relevance and rightness of saying Sorry to the Aborigines, it presents an opportunity for Nagas too to contemplate the profoundness of saying Sorry to those who we have hurt. No doubt, Nagas feel we have been wronged by others, but it is equally true that we have wronged others as well as each other, and it is only right that we say Sorry to those who we have hurt, so that we too may be lifted off the burdens of our own history. By saying Sorry, everyone wins, no one loses. By saying Sorry to each other, it will be a victory for the Nagas.