Messages of Hope

Sanctuary

Published / by Andrew

The Bible
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

The Moderator’s Pastoral Note
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Yesterday the High Court ruled that the government can now choose to forcibly deport asylum-seeker families, including 37 babies and 54 children to offshore detention.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce of which the Uniting Church is a member, asked its members to take symbolic action by offering asylum-seeker families sanctuary within churches.

The Synod of South Australia was approached by the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly, to nominate a local church that would be able to offer sanctuary to asylum-seeker families affected by the High Court decision. As the Moderator, I approached Pilgrim Uniting Church, who over a long period of time, have supported and advocated for asylum seekers and refugees. The South Australian Synod is working closely with Pilgrim Uniting Church as a result of the Uniting Church in Australia’s request….

In a statement released by the Uniting Church in Australia, the President, Stuart McMillan called upon the Prime Minister: “Mr Turnbull, I appeal to your sense of compassion. Please step in and make the moral decision to protect these vulnerable people.

“Returning families and babies to Nauru and Manus may be legal, but it is not humane. To send people, especially children and Australian-born babies, back to the place that has caused them such harm would be an outrage against human dignity.”

Mr McMillan and Rev Elenie Poulos of UnitingJustice have encouraged Uniting Church members to contact their local Federal Members of Parliament to express their concerns.

As a church, we are engaged in this advocacy, because we follow in the way of Jesus.

Jesus’ life and ministry witness to a God who calls us to embody God’s compassion, justice and love for all people, and in particular, those who are oppressed and vulnerable. As we enter into the period of Lent, we are reminded of our God who understands our suffering and invites us to be present with all those who suffer injustice.

I invite you all to assist wherever you can and I pray for courage and persistence for all of us, as we seek to faithfully discern and respond to God’s call to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)
Yours in Christ,
Deidre Palmer
Moderator
Uniting Church in South Australia

The President’s Statement
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene directly to prevent the return of more than 250 asylum seekers, including children and babies, to offshore detention.

“Mr Turnbull, I appeal to your sense of compassion. Please step in and make the moral decision to protect these vulnerable people,” said Mr McMillan.

“Returning families and babies to Nauru and Manus may be legal, but it is not humane. To send people, especially children and Australian-born babies, back to the place that has caused them such harm would be an outrage against human dignity.”

Mr McMillan’s call follows today’s decision by the High Court of Australia to uphold the Government’s right to detain people in the immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG.

National Director of UnitingJustice Australia Rev. Elenie Poulos believes the Government’s response is a potential turning point in the Australian national identity.

“What the Government does now will define who we are in relation to refugee protection. Are we a nation that would send women and children who have been sexually abused back to the site of their abuse?” said Rev. Poulos.

“Are we a nation that sends babies born in this country to a deliberately harsh and damaging environment in another country just to make a political point?

“Our reputation as a country of fairness and decency is on the line right here and now.

“We are calling on Mr Turnbull to make a decision that reflects favourably on all of us. It is for the benefit of all Australians that as a nation we choose to protect and not harm all people under our care.” (Original)

The Writer
Writing my novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North I came to conclude that great crimes like the Death Railway did not begin with the first beating or murder on that grim line of horror in 1943. They begin decades before with politicians, public figures, and journalists promoting the idea of some people being less than people.

It is they who wield the sword, the cane, the rifle butt and the rifle trigger as surely as the guards and soldiers who follow them. And it is they who in the end must be judged as far more responsible for those great crimes against humanity….

One day, many years from now, another prime minister will stand up and to a teary gallery apologise for the damage done to refugees in detention. We will be told that we didn’t know then what we know now. We will hear testimony of destroyed lives. But we did know. We always knew. We just chose not to hear and to silence those who tried to remind us of the truth. Richard Flanagan

The Bible
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.    (Luke 4)

Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25)