welcome

 

This beautiful artwork is used with permission of  the talented artist Liz Braid www.lizbraid.com

As of April 2014 there are 1138 children in detention in Australia’s detention centres.  It has been hard to know how to respond in the face of Australia’s inhospitable and inhumane policies/treatment of refugees seeking asylum.

Our God is Undocumented, a book by Ched Myers, offers a biblical exegesis for the American context and is drawn on below to consider the Australian context through the use of reflective prayer stations.

map of 006the world – how can we identify with the journey of refugees, pin where we are from, our parents, our grandparents… use different coloured pins {Our God is Undocumented, p.10 “We should never forget that the first immigration “crisis” on this continent came as a result of European colonisation of the Americas. This resulted in three great disasters: the obliteration of First Nations sovereignty and cultures, the violent removal of millions of Africans to the Americas in the slave trade, and the impoverishment of countless people due to relentless resource and labor extraction… poor immigrants today are simply following the trail of wealth stolen from their land centuries ago.}

Australian has its own unreconciled history with its First Nations Koori people.  Koori people have lived on this land for 50,000 years, us white folk less than 250 years.  There is a bit of a “We outnumber you and ours is the dominant culture, why don’t you just assimilate/get with the programme”  Where do we belong? What right did our ancestors have to arrive by boat for resources such as land and gold or to avoid famine?  How can we use our own personal stories/history to develop a sense of compassion for those still arriving today?  As can been seen at the Melbourne Immigration museum there have been waves of refugees from Vietnam, Philippines, Africa (Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese…), Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Lebanon…) – what is the role of Australia in conflict/securing resources in these areas?009

Say (or hear) Lords Prayer together in different languages.  Spirit of Pentecost Acts 2.6,8,11 …in their own tongue. Didn’t all understand Latin/Greek but heard scripture in their own language.   {Our God is Undocumented p.28 “Perhaps it recognises that language is one of the fundamental things that makes us human and that linguistic distinctiveness characterised the original forms of human organisation before the rise of imperial monocultures.  The ancient wisdom preserved in this story reminds us that cultural heterogeneity is as essential to human social ecology as species diversity is to a healthy biosystem… more than 95% of the world’s spoken languages have fewer than 1 million native speakers.  Half of all the languages have fewer than 10,000 speakers.  A quarter of the world’s spoken languages and most of the sign languages have fewer that 1,000 users… It has been estimated that 20-50% of the world’s languages are already moribund, and that 90% (possibly even more) may be moribund or will have disappeared by 2100.”}

Does your congregating community have members from other cultures who attend? If not, why not? What are some ways to acknowledge, celebrate and affirm the cultural differences within our community? Language/stories/songs, festivals, wisdom of prophets/spiritual leaders, colours/fabrics/flags, food at morning tea, clothing… we all of us are made in God’s image – male/female, brown/yellow/black/white, no matter where we’re born. How can we draw on the richness of diversity in the God we worship?

020share communion together {Our God Is Undocumented p. 200 “Remember what has been dismembered.  This exhortation lies at the heart of the church’s eucharistic ritual, repeated with each element for emphasis. It reiterates and sums up the deep wisdom of biblical faith, the product of a people all too familiar with distress, displacements and near disappearance.  Whenever you ingest this memory, said Jesus on the eve of his execution, you join yourselves to our historic struggle to make the broken body whole.  It was, and is, both invitation and imperative, equally personal and political.  If we refuse to heed it, we are doomed to drift forever on or be drowned by the tides of empire, refugees all.”}

This is one loaf of bread. One body.
It’s broken.

As Jesus’ body was broken on the cross for us.

this bit might be me…
this bit might be Jarra…
this bit might be Ahmed…
this bit might be Rajesh…
this bit might be Sam, or Maya, or Bob, or Shirley…

When we eat this bread it is a reminder that we are all part of one whole – we might be a different colour, we might be a different size of a different shape  – but we are all part of the same body… connected.  And we are all of us broken.  In each taking a peice, and eating it at the same time, we are invtied back into wholeness with God and012 with each other.

Angels – paper cut out? Something we can take away with us/put somewhere prominant to remind us to welcome the other {Our God Is Undocumented p.67 “…account of the angel travellers similarly attacked in Sodom, a violation that also ended in that city’s destruction (Jgs 19:15-25-Gn 19:1-11). …cautionary tale… “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2).

#LoveMakesAWay is a movement of Christians seeking an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies through prayer and nonviolent love in action, you can see their Facebook page here.  This is high-level commitment advocacy but there are less “extreme” places to start…

There is an initiative in Switzerland that suggests putting stickers on your mailbox to let your neighbours know what is available to borrow – we used to be able to knock on our neighbours door but nowadays spend more time online than in realtime…

Communities like Urban Seed in Melbourne offer a free meal to those marginalised by homelessness in Melbourne – but here’s the thing, they don’t only offer food to people who are homeless, they offer food to anyone that shows up for lunch as they explore what it means to be good neighbours in a busy city of commuters and extend us the invitation/challenge to do the same through their Strangers Are Fiction campaign.

Who are your neighbours? Do you know their names? What might be one thing you could do that might lead you into connecting with them? [fruit or flowers from the garden you want to share, or baking, maybe you take the initiative to borrow something next time you realise you’re low on milk or the grass is getting tall…] …who knows where this might lead?

Dolls house – have sample forms and invite people to write their own and take them home as a way of symbolically creating space for the other in your home {Our God Is Undocumented p.107 In my fathers house there is lots of room (Jn 14:2)

I went to an art exhibition last week with some art works around the theme of showing welcome to refugees such as that by Liz Braid above – they had some mock forms on the wall that said things like:

ASYLUM SEEKER
PROCESSING FORM

Please come in. What a
terrible journey you’ve had!
I’m so glad you have arrived
safely and to imagine, once
you’re healed, how much you
have to offer us.  Let me help
you with your bags, we’ll have
you unpacked in no time…
You are welcome here. APPROVED

Invite people to write their own words of welcome, take them home and put them in a room of our own house with some intentionality and deliberation – symbolically creating space for the other is a good place to start and this can create some mindfulness to extending hospitality/welcome when an opportunity presents itself.

 

Anne Lamott has said, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”

Let us hope. Let us try and do the right thing.