On Monday 23rd June, we were part of a group of 9 faith community leaders who went to MP Jamie Briggs’ office in Mt Barker, the electorate that includes Inverbrackie Detention Centre, to ask a simple question, “When will the 983 children being held in indefinite detention in Australia be released with their families into the community?”
We vowed to stay in the office until we had an answer, and spent the day learning about the Jewish mandate to welcome the stranger from our fellow participant Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, singing a variety of gentle songs, praying and sharing stories of our faith journeys. When the office was ready to close and the answer to our question about the children in detention was still not forthcoming, we peacefully and respectfully declined to leave, resulting in our arrest for the minor offence of trespass. The police involved were kind, generous, professional and respectful of our commitment not only to the children in detention, being held in prison-like conditions, but also to seeing our country shift away from cruelty and towards greater compassion.
As noted in Sunday’s sermon marking the 37th anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia, our uniquely Australian denomination and its predecessor churches have taken up the command of Jesus to “love our neighbours as ourselves” in public ways many times across the history of this country. ‘A Christian responsibility to society has always been regarded as fundamental to the mission of the Church. In the Uniting Church our response to the Christian gospel will continue to involve us in social and national affairs. We affirm our eagerness to uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being, the need for integrity in public life, the proclamation of truth and justice, the rights for each citizen to participate in decision-making in the community, religious liberty and personal dignity, and a concern for the welfare of the whole human race. We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur’. (UCA Statement to the Nation, 1977)
In a media release on Monday, Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia Dr. Deirdre Palmer comments, “the Uniting Church’s Code of Ethics for ministers in the Church specifically allows for acts of civil disobedience. This includes praying peacefully in the offices of members of parliament and engaging in non-violent direct action. Through this peaceful action we seek to challenge the government’s inhumane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers and encourage others to embrace a more welcoming response to those who seek asylum here.”
We both resonate with what our colleagues at Brougham Place Uniting Church, John and Jenni Hughes, said about their motivation as faith community leaders for participating in the peaceful protest on Monday:
Each week we stand in the pulpit and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. We feel our words are empty if we do not then live out what we preach.
We look forward to conversations with you about this experience and the issues surrounding asylum seekers. And we hope that in the spirit of the Pilgrim practice of solidarity, we may be united as a community in our concern for all vulnerable people, including asylum seekers and their children, and in our hope for deepened compassion in our public discourse and our policy-making as a nation.
Please note the forum about asylum seekers organised by an interfaith coalition to be held at Pilgrim on Monday June 30th, beginning at 6 p.m. with a shared dinner (please bring a plate to share) followed by the forum beginning at 7. Guests include Brad Chilcott (Welcome to Australia), Kate Leaney (The Welcome Centre), Libby Hogarth and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Grace and peace,
Sandy and Jana
posted 27 Jun 2014 by Sandy