Tens of thousands of people attended candlelight vigils – #LightTheDark – around Australia on Monday 7th September to urge action on the humanitarian crisis arising from the Syria conflict, and to lament the death of Aylan Kurdi, his brother and mother, all washed up on a Turkish beach last week. Many more have died in an attempt to flee war and terror in Syria. (Photos here).
Rev Sandy Boyce was invited to be one of the invited speakers and this is her message:
‘It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness’.
Friends, we gather as people of goodwill, as people who yearn for a world where all have safety and shelter, a world where leaders lean towards peace and seek the common good for all.
We gather to lament, to express sorrow for lives cut short and families fractured, and to show compassion for those innocently caught up in the tragedy of war and the cycle of violence.
We gather with heavy hearts to remember 3 year old Aylan, his 5 year old brother Galip and his mother, Riham – and Abdullah, father and husband, who has lost everything precious to him. Now he just wants the world to really see the plight of the refugees. His impassioned plea is: Let this tragedy be the last.
We gather in the spirit of this ancient wisdom from the book of Proverbs:
Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.
Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak.
May these ancient words of wisdom inspire us today – and be a call to our leaders, and our nation: to live with more generosity, to not walk on the poor and the disadvantaged and vulnerable just because of the position they’re in, to not use the position of privilege and power to crush those losing hope.
Together, we share much wisdom here. It is we who can open ourselves to extend generosity, to cradle hope, to show compassion, to offer love and acceptance. To embody the ancient wisdom of ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’.
We long for this wisdom to be at the heart of our community, our nation and our global village. Even so, nothing can deter people of goodwill who defiantly commit to seeking the common good for all. Now is not a time to be shy, or reticent or cautious. This is a time for determination, for solidarity, for action. It is in our hands to do what we can with what we have, to change the conversation we’ve been having in this nation, to recognise our inter-connectedness in our global village rather than foster division and disconnection. To welcome the stranger rather than treat them with indifference. To affirm the dignity of humanity rather than denigrate.
In Europe, we watch as football fans hold aloft huge signs at football matches: we welcome refugees. We watch as the authorities in Rome ask people to stop bringing food and water to the train station, for such has been the generosity of the people that supplies are overflowing. We watch as the flood of refugees traipse along highways, with locals ready to offer fruit, water, and food and snacks to them. Or to offer them rides to their destination. We watch as refugees are clapped by local people as they arrive in towns and cities. I like to think that each clap is like a a prayer, a blessing, for each of these refugees.
It is the ordinary people leading the way, extending love and compassion to these vulnerable, tired and anxious refugees.
But even the politicians are showing extraordinary leadership. The Prime Minister of Finland says he will offer his own house to refugees. He said, it is easy to outsource everything to the society (government). But, society has limited possibilities. The more citizens are active, the better. An asylum seeker “deserves human treatment and a genuine welcome greeting. I ask everybody to stop all the hate speeches and concentrate on taking care of people who are fleeing from the war zone, so that they feel safe and welcome”. Let it be so.
We watch as the Pope offers to shelter refugee families who are “fleeing death” from war or hunger, and has called on Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to do the same. He said, “Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbours to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope”.
This is a call that transcends borders and boundaries and even religious traditions. And so we watch to see what our own nation will offer in response to this humanitarian crisis.
And for us?
We are ordinary people, with an extraordinary capacity to support refugees. We know all too well the fragility of hope, and yet we also claim the strength and determination of spirit to act for the welfare of those fleeing war, violence, destruction and persecution.
Let us therefore do what we can, with what we have. And let us do it together.
It can start with the simplicity of offering a place of safety – as a community, as a nation, and in our hearts and homes. My attention was taken today by a coalition of people who have formed a Facebook group, Aylanslist, with the goal of collating a list of 11,000 Australian homes who are prepared to welcome one or more refugees to live with them while they get established. Might that be something you can be part of, or know someone with space in their home to welcome refugees? What will you do with what you have?
We have gathered, and we will disperse, but let us stay strong together in spirit, and do what we can with what we have. Together, with open hands and open hearts, it is enough.
#lightthedark Adelaide, 7th September 2015