9 of 12 members of our church who attended the vigil.
I have blogged before on the plight of refugees from war-torn or unstable countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran arriving in Australian waters by boat and Australia’s somewhat callous attitude to them – see links below this post.
Australia outsources some of its nastier policies to poor surrounding nations such as Papua New Guinea, which allows Australia to transfer detainees awaiting assessment of their claims (which will be very slow, quite possibly deliberately to discourage others) to a detention centre on Manus Island.
About 2 months ago Reza Barati, a 23 year old Iranian asylum seeker, was murdered in the Manus Island detention centre in circumstances which our Government either keeps secret, or doesn’t care to find out (so far at least).
More than anything else I think, this violent death of an apparently peaceful and innocent man in the prime of life, seems to have catalysed many Australians, including many christians, to protest that enough is enough and whatever the merits of the Government’s policy objectives on asylum seekers, the moral price of the present approach is too high.
On Easter Saturday, 125 people gathered in front of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office to pray and protest. I was there.
Peaceful, non-partisan, prayerful
A recent small protest inside Scott Morrison’s office led to 5 people being arrested when they refused to leave (all were subsequently acquitted). There were some criticisms of this civil disobedience action so the prayer vigil was strongly peaceful (it had police approval and all police requests were complied with), non-partisan (both major parties have abhorrent policies on refugees) and prayerful (we followed a liturgy of lament and had a time of prayer).
Scott Morrison, as well as being the Minister responsible for asylum seekers, is our local member and a christian. It seemed right for Carolyn and I to participate.
There was a good feeling throughout. We all believe prayer can make a difference, and we hope the vigil is reported in the local newspaper and is part of changing public and Government opinion. Here are a few photos.
Setting up in Cronulla Mall in front of Scott Morrison’s office.
The “crowd” from the back.
A reminder that over 1100 children are held in detention in psychologically harmful conditions.
Other posts on Australia’s response to refugees
- Two films about Australia’s boat refugees (June 2013)
- Grief ….. shame ….. and anger (June 2013)
- Refugee mistreatment makes me sick at heart (February 2014)
- A christian response to refugees seeking asylum (March 2014)
- Tim Costello (CEO, World Vision Australia)
- Malcolm Fraser (former Prime Minister)
- Julian Burnside QC (barrister and human rights advocate)
- Hugh Mackay (social researcher, on the blog of John Menadue (former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet)
- The Anglican Archbishops of Australia
Wonderful! My skim- reading originally left me thinking that you were among the group arrested recently so I’m glad to see that this was yesterday.
I do love a politically active Christian. Sadly this government has a long way to go before it grows a heart or a soul.
No, I know the guy who organised the prayer vigil where people were arrested (but not him because he happened to be talking to the media at the time), but i wasn’t there myself.
Political activity is a relatively new thing for me, but like a lot of christians, it seems like this is time to speak out.
There seems to be a global trend of the last decade towards greater nationalism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments. Since you stated Labor has also been involved in poor policies on immigration, I guess the trend has also existed in Australia for some years. Could you tell something more about it?
Do you also know when you can expect any report on it?
Yes, I think there has been a trend. Australia was pretty much a British country up until the 1950s. (Of course we had our indigenous Australians, but they were marginalised, and we had small numbers of other nationalities too. But we officially had a White Australia Policy until the 1960s.)
There was large scale immigration from Europe after WW2 – most noticeably Italians and Greeks, but also many others (including Dutch). They were sometimes victims of low level racial prejudice, but generally accepted although seen as different.
Then in the 70s we had a wave of Vietnamese “boat people”, and in the 90s quite a few Chinese (mostly from Hong Kong) and they seem to have been welcomed with little prejudice.
But the latest “boat people” are more likely to be Muslim (+ some Tamils from Sri Lanka) and they are victims of Islam’s bad press in the west (not totally unjustified of course). I think most Australians would still welcome them, but the Murdoch press and a few radio “shock jocks” have been really rabid in their fear-mongering. The Liberal-National Coalition Government (both at present and the previous one) doesn’t need much encouragement to use boat people as a political weapon – there was an infamous occasion when the previous Government deliberately lied about refugee children being thrown overboard to force Navy ships picking them up, to help win an election.
When the previous Labor Government came to power, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (a good and compassionate man whose personal weaknesses unfortunately brought him undone) softened Australia’s approach as much as he could, but this led to greater numbers of arrivals, a nasty and vitriolic campaign by the Murdoch press, and the policy was hardened in an unsuccessful attempt to win re-election.
But the present Government seems to have become even more callous, and the situation has become even more polarised. There are no easy solutions, but it seems to me impossible for a decent person to accept what is happening now.
When you say “report”, do you mean a press report of the vigil??
Yes, I meant a press report. You said you hoped it was reported in the media, right?
By the way, handsome bloke in the top photo. The one to the right with the beard. (Thus he said grovellingly.)
No, it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned even in the local paper.
Yes, I was wondering if you’d notice the big bronze Aussie. 🙂
That’s too bad. Were there any journalists present?
There was a guy taking photos who we thought was a journalist, but maybe not. I don’t mind too much – the purpose was more for the prayer than the public demonstration.