This morning I attended one of the many actions organised by Love Makes a Way in response to the leaked incident reports from the Nauru detention centre that the Guardian published last week. I put on my clerical collar, got on the train with my paper dolls, drank some coffee and made my way to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s electoral office.
Shortly after I arrived one of the team members from Love Makes a Way and Common Grace asked if he could interview me about why I was there. The question has been turning over in my mind all day.
Over the last few months our congregation has been reading the book of Ezekiel and reflecting on prophetic imagination together. We’ve been coming back again and again to this understanding of the prophets:
Prophets are those who have glimpsed something of God’s glory and who work to see that made manifest on earth. They are passionate that the community of faith will love God with all their heart and so following from that will love their neighbour. Prophets offer a critique when love of God and love of neighbour have been misplaced. Following critique, prophets offer energising words so that God might nurture and nourish a community who will live with love of God and from that love of neighbour.
We’ve read a lot of passages, like Ezekiel 34 last Sunday, reminding us of how seriously God takes covenant living- living well together in community. This is the Creator God who finds what has been created precious beyond belief whose care for each thing is intimate and profound. In the words given to Ezekiel it’s as though God wants to shake the people out of their complacency and make them realise they cannot continue to live and act without justice and care as they have in the past.
When I see the way that we treat asylum seekers in Australia my heart breaks and I hear the critique of God to me and to the communities I belong to. And the way we treat asylum seekers is just one example of systematic abuses within our society as we have seen in the horrific treatment of young Indigenous people in the Don Dale detention centre, or our complacency in the face of climate change.
What will it take to break the hearts of our political leaders?
When will we as a people decide to live out of generosity rather than fear?
Why did I stand with 35 people outside the Prime Minister’s office this morning?
Because I want to love God with all my heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. And I want to love my neighbour as myself, even the neighbour I have never met who lives in a tent in a detention centre on the island of Nauru. I want to be shaken out of my complacency and see our wider community change.
As a follower of Jesus I want to bear witness against the injustice and cruelty we see in our current policies. And I want to bear witness to the hope that we could be a society of courageous grace and compassion.
Life is busy. This year is busy. Somehow we find that it is already August! Sometimes I feel like I rush from one thing to another, my mind constantly churning and swirling, full of too many things. I (we?) forget to stop and breathe cialis generique and http://www.cialispharmaciefr24.com/prix-cialis-vs-viagra/ look around.
On Sunday Rosemary taught us the phrase Au Eswow from her language. It means deepest thankfulness and gratitude. She encouraged us to stop and notice the beauty around us. She reminded us to give thanks for the precious community that we are part of together- even in the days and weeks and months when we see that there is so much bad news.
Au Eswow. I am filled with deep thankfulness and gratitude for each person who is part of Hope Uniting Church and all those others who spend time in our midst.
Au Eswow. I am grateful for the movement of God’s Spirit of love, taking us on adventures towards gardens, playgroups, and new ways to be Jesus people in this place.
Au Eswow. I am amazed that God brought me (and you) here to love each other, challenge each other, encourage each other and to grow in faith as we follow after Christ together.
I am going to try and live out this phrase through the month of August- to live with deep thankfulness and gratitude. I will commit to remembering the ways God has been faithful in the past, through the stories of the Scriptures, among our congregation and in my own life. I will try to notice the ways that God is present around me each day. And I will look with hope to the future that God has promised to bring. Will you join me?
Au Eswow. Amen
A week ago I had a lovely afternoon café treat with some dear friends. It was to celebrate my godson’s last day of preschool. On Tuesday he had his first day of Kindy. I was delighted to receive the obligatory end-of-day photo to show that even though there had been some nervousness, all ended well. And the on Wednesday the High Court brought down its ruling that offshore detention is legal. I can’t help but make the comparison between kids beginning school this week and kids facing an uncertain future.
Yesterday I joined the #LetThemStay rally in Sydney to express my absolute horror that our Government would consider returning babies, children, families and victims of abuse to an ill-equipped camp on Nauru.
My heart is breaking for these precious human beings. My heart is breaking for the ‘soul’ of our country. My hope is for freedom, for safety, for love for these kids and their families. I want their parents to see the same smile as I saw on my godson’s face, to know that they will learn and play and grow and have countless opportunities to live and love and thrive.
It’s hard not to feel helpless, but there are things I can do.
I can remember at the heart of my faith tradition is love for strangers.
God’s love for creatures and creation that sets the whole world in motion.
In the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is teaching the people and reminding them what it is to be God’s people. Moses says:
What does God require of you? Only to fear https://www.acheterviagrafr24.com/prix-du-viagra-en-pharmacie/ God, to walk in all God’s ways, to love God, to serve God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep God’s commandments and decrees that I am giving you today, for your own well-being… For God executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
And then we have Jesus, who becomes a stranger to live among us, God-become-human to live our life and share in our joys and struggles. And Jesus constantly reminds us that God cares for the strangers and the least.
I can keep putting pressure on my local MP, on the PM, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Opposition Leader and as many other politicians as possible. I can email them, call their offices to let the staff know how important this is to me, and then tomorrow I can do the same again. I can ask my congregation to write too.
I can attend Sydney Stands up for Sanctuary on Monday night to demand that we #LetThemStay.And I can pray. Because I am a Christian and I believe in prayer. Because in the words of Karl Barth,
“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
If this isn’t disorder, then I’m not sure what is. So I can pray the Psalms of lament again and again. I can pray for our government to show courage and compassion. I can pray for the vulnerable asylum seekers who face being sent to Nauru, and for those who are still languishing there and on Manus. I can pray for refugees around the world and for the situations of war and violence which create the need for people to flee.
I refuse to give up hope. These people are precious.
There’s an oft-quoted Karl Barth line about reading with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. It’s a clear call for our faith to speak not only to our private lives but to the public realm as well.
Jesus reconciles each one of us to relationship with God; and Jesus also reconciles the whole creation. Your personal life and that of the ecosystem and our economic structures are all within Jesus’ concern. Which is why as a church we seek to act together around issues like advocating for asylum seekers and reconciliation for all Australians. And it is why we encourage you to join in our prayer retreats, bible studies and small groups.
Faith is always private and public.
What I find interesting about Barth’s quote is that we almost always miss the second line, “…but interpret newspapers from your bible.” If the Christian scriptures recognize Jesus as the Word of God, and his cross and resurrection as the clearest view of power and love – what does that say to our approach to politics and economics? To environmental concerns and international affairs?
Can we let Jesus challenge our inherited worldviews and assumed political stances? Do we allow him to challenge our daily rhythms of life and work?
At Hope Uniting we are committed to being challenged by our faith in all realms of life. Our vision is to be a congregation deeply rooted in scripture, prayer and worship as well as following the consequences of this faith into the public realm.
Where do you need to let faith push you today?
Last night I joined a group of people outside Sydney Town Hall. We gathered to bear witness to the situation of Baby Asha.
Asha was born in Darwin to asylum seeker parents. Early in June, her family were awoken in the middle of the night and transferred to Nauru. They were not given the opportunity to contact their lawyer. They were not able to speak with their support network. They were simply taken away. At the rally we heard from an infant feeding specialist who has spent time on the phone with Asha’s mother over the last couple of weeks. The trauma of this experience has had a big impact on mother and baby. There was a period where Asha was not able to receive enough food, as her mother was unable to feed her and the only formula available made her sick. On Nauru the family live, as all in detention live, in a mouldy tent. We already know that the conditions in the Nauru detention centre are very poor. We also know there are more babies and their families who the Government plan to transfer to Nauru.
How did we get here?
We heard from a paediatrician who has visited the centre on Nauru. He shared what he saw and his experience of the horrors of the centre. Along with teachers, nurses, psychologists, and others who are contracted workers at onshore and offshore detention facilities the consequences for speaking out about his experience are different today than they were yesterday. Today the Border Force Act comes into play. Passed with bipartisan support, there is now a risk of up to two years in jail for those who speak out about what they see in immigration detention. What are we afraid of, when we try to silence those who offer their lives up for the care of others?
How did we get here?
I was incredibly moved by the rally. My eyes welled up with tears as I listened to the stories shared. My heart filled with anger, with shame, with sorrow as former NSW/ACT Moderator Brian Brown asked how it is that the electorate, once filled with horror by the idea of children-overboard, can now so easily dismiss the human worth of little ones like Asha.
How did we get here?
Today I am find hope in the courage and conviction of the more than 40 current and former workers at Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island who refuse to be silenced. They write:
We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for the health of those for whom we have a duty of care, despite the threats of imprisonment, because standing by and watching sub-standard and harmful care, child abuse and gross violations of human rights is not ethically justifiable…Evidence of the devastating effects of institutional self-protection and blindness to child abuse has been presented before the current royal commission. We are determined not to collude with a system that repeats these same mistakes.
Their full letter can be read here.
Will our voices be silent in the face of what can only be described as evil?
It’s a word we don’t use often, but there is no other word for what we see happening.
How did we get here?
Here is where we are.
But we don’t have to stay in this place.
We don’t have to accept this absurd reality.
We cannot be silent.
Write a (real, handwritten, snail-mail) letter to your local member. Write to the Prime Minister. Write to the Leader of the Opposition.
Turn up at rallies and protests and events that bear witness. Be an advocate. Welcome the stranger.
We must take up our courage and conviction to find another way.