Category: radical discipleship


Fools for love

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This Lent with Easter Sunday falling on April Fools day Godspace are running a series on For love of the world God did foolish things… it’s bringing out/together all sorts of foolish ideas that are worth checking out. Below are a couple of links to contributions I’ve made to that blog on that theme.

Foolish Love: What words do we ever have to express our love well?

This piece is a story of the time I stuck up bad poetry all of the woods like Orlando from As You Like It…. you can read more here

Come, Be a Holy Fool

This piece is an invitation to follow the example to do foolish things for love too… you can read more here

May you encounter something Holy and foolish this Lent.

Taurikura, Talitha
have peace

 

Creating home…

 

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This image is likely a familiar one, it was my Facebook homepage banner for more than a year.   This symbolic little house is actually made up of  something I dumpster-dived. I think it’s meant to be the tip-top piece of a garden climbing frame to train plants over and it’s wound all around with stray bits of remnant wool from the Footscray Salvos Winter Warmth crafternoon projects.

This little prayer receptacle came about initially because housing conversations are always ones of potential and possibility, fears and hopes, needs and dreams – my own and those of others. It’s hard to hold “space” for all those conversations in your head and your heart, especially over time.  It occurred to me that a gift of faith is having the comfort (and discomfort) of verses such as this in Philippians 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds…” I’m not always that good at praying regularly but the prospect of somewhere to ‘hold’ all that felt too much to ‘hold’ was a powerful one and a visible manifestation in the world of putting down what I carried was a very helpful, and healthy, for my less visible inner world.

 

Over the last year, this little house has been a receptacle  and companion for prayers public and private, communal and individual, at home and away, morning and night… prayers over grace, dinner, stories, stones, and tears…

It has borne witness to the ending of the community house at Droop St and the journey of finding home for Hawo and Omar and their children Falis, Istanbul, Yehye, Hibo, Dihabo and also for ourselves: Maria and Eddy, Bron and myself relocating within Footscray to a five bedroom house and soon joined by Tekitah.

The latter of us were in our new place for perhaps 3 months before we discovered (through a planning permit notice getting hammered up in our front yard) that we would need to move again and, just like that, a shadow was cast over our sense of security and place. How do you develop attachment in a place you will not stay? How do you put down roots? All those conversations and yes – prayer… about people, place, priorities… community and commitments, calling and capacity…

We know a golden moment of deep-abiding joy when Maria gets news of residency.  She will not need now to fear being separated from her son or leaving their life here.  But there had been a kind of equilibrium to the status quo that was removed with the “asylum seeker” status and somehow, in short order, you become ineligible for many of the support systems you have solely relied on for the duration of that long road home.  After filling in the same identical form fortnightly and monthly over so many years there are now new ones – Centrelink, ID, healthcare/concession cards, housing applications, job applications…

The most recent move sees Tekitah, Maria, Eddy and I in a cosy 3-bedroom on a busy Footscray road.  I unpacked the little house along with everything else and it has sat waiting for its moment… I had some idea of “unpacking” the desperate wisps and slips of papery prayer into the layers of our new compost bin. Turning crap to good purpose is good theology.  How can what’ we experience, for better or for worse, serve us going forward in material and immaterial ways… in substantive and transubstantiated ways?  I wanted to mark the end of the season that has been. Honoring it but saying clearly:
We are done. We are home.

Some how I didn’t get around to it yet, though I can’t say I knew…

This week Centrelink have cancelled Maria’s benefit and the vagaries of the hospitality industry see Tekitah looking for a new gig.  We are given to know that our understanding  of home and security remains a fragile one (and there are more forms to fill in).

So, our journey is not over yet.  We know that the communities that work are communities of necessity and we need each other.  We’re going to keep praying and telling stories and reflecting on what home is – personally and politically speaking –  a bit of sacred and ordinary radical hospitality.  Please know that you are welcome to join us here if you want to travel alongside.

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An act of public witness and liturgical protest in a response to the current crisis on Manus Island following the government’s closure of the island’s immigration detention centre.  Sunday 19 November 2017, Tim Watts, Labor MP Office, 97 Geelong Rd, Footscray

We are here today to stand in solidarity with men who the Australian Government have held on Manus Island in limbo for over four years. We are here today on the unceded land of the people of the Kulin Nation because on October 31 the Manus camp was officially “closed.”

We are here today because water, food and power have been cut off. Over 600 men have been abandoned. They are collecting water in rubbish bins. They are digging wells to survive. They are showering in the rain. And left starving and without medical care. Because they can no longer tolerate political games and human rights abuses.

There has been no plan. There has been no justice. Their lives are on the line. Men have stated: We can’t blame the sea for drowning people but we blame Australia for killing us. People need a genuine solution. Not to be shifted from one prison to another where their lives remain at risk.

We echo their calls for freedom and safety and call on the Australian government to bring people back to Australia immediately and provide safe resettlement. We want the government to know that we are watching this humanitarian emergency unfold and we do not accept the violence, the abuse, and the ongoing persecution of refugees.

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We hear stories of the men on Manus in their own voice. Raise our arms as they do in non-violent protest. We spell out SOS in cups in solidarity and symbolically of life-giving water denied. We make decorations together with our children and tell them stories… we want to teach our children justice. We make chains of the names of those we know on Manus and symbolically tear those chains. Felt and red lights denote the blood on the hands of our democratically elected Government who are treating people this way in our name.  We have barbed wire on our tree instead of tinsel – neither the welcome you thought you’d be given nor the home you hoped to find. We sing, to remember and be re-membered.  We make decorations, we recite, we pray, we sing… it feels like something. Wherever two or three are gathered… there is our hope.

 

Hold on (Love Makes A Way)

(tune: Keep your hand to the plough/Keep your eyes on the prize)

They are coming across the sea,
From their homes they have had to flee,
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We are here to sing and shout,
Why you keeping God’s children out?
We say love makes a way, hold on.

Chorus
Hold on, hold on,

We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We say welcome the refugee
We say set all the people free
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

We have room in our hearts to care
We have plenty enough to share
We say, love makes a way, hold on.

 

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I push the miscellany of moving to one side of the table. Housing applications, to-do lists, measuring tape, a stray key… the tissues can stay.  I light a candle.  I have to.  Nothing else makes sense. Be Thou my Vision O Lord of my heart.  It didn’t make much sense to take this on – planning a vigil, to add in an extra thing. What time or strength or capacity did I imagine I had? It’s a conceit for people to imagine the idea is mine or its execution.

I light a candle, teal, it transitions in colour from light to dark and I think of the waves. The overloaded boat you give up everything to catch – all that remains is you – skin, flesh, person, a life… alive. Unless the sea takes you.  You are rescued, you think saved, you are taken to a waiting place but it isn’t liminal or moving. It’s not a threshold to a new door.  It’s not a threshold to anything.  The door you knock on, pleading, cold, hungry, desperate, skin, flesh, person, alive… remains closed.

 

 

It’s hard to know how to respond when circumstances seem beyond understanding (such as Australia’s inhumane and fear-driven approach to asylum seekers and refugees).  It’s tempting to think ‘there’s nothing I can do’ or ‘nothing I do will make any difference’ and feel absolved of taking any action.  Both personal and political power are at play here.  The person I need to answer to is me.  Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something because I believe people are using their agency where they can – doctors, teachers, church and community leaders, yes even some politicians…  in speaking out you aren’t raising your voice alone but joining in a bigger chorus that are asking for the world to be different. Do you want the world to be different? Say so.  Even if it’s with only the cat watching and some “Radical Paint”.

 


What are Australian politicians saying about refugees?

“And so what I say to people when they are a little bit apprehensive about Australia taking more refugees, it’s really about what are the services we are going to provide, what communities are we going to put in and how are we going to integrate people into our community.

“These are beautiful people.

“I am so proud of humble country folk who are being part of the solution. We can do this, we can replicate this in many towns across Australia and it will bring so much good.”

Andrew Broad, National MP

 

… the current refugee crisis [is] the defining humanitarian issue of our time “and a challenge Australia has all too often failed to rise to”.  While Australia’s refugee debate was toxic, there were points of potential consensus between political parties. “I believe we can build out from these areas of consensus to increase the positive impact Australia can have on the international refugee crisis.”

TimWatts, Labor MP

 

“We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence. These photos demonstrate otherwise. People have seen other photos in recent weeks of those up on Manus out enjoying themselves outside this centre, by the beach and all the rest of it.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“This is exactly what we have done with the program to bring in 12,000 Syrian refugees, 90 per cent of which will be Christians. It will be quite deliberate and the position I have taken — I have been very open about it — is that it is a tragic fact of life that when the situation in the Middle East settles down — the people that are going to be most unlikely to have a continuing home are those Christian minorities.”

Malcolm Turnbull

 

“They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them …

They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here… They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them.”

Malcolm Turnbull

 

“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,”… “These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.

“For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“The difficulty of course on Manus is that this Government never put anybody on Manus. We inherited a situation where 50,000 people had come on 800 boats and it was a terrible, terrible situation. The deal that was struck between Prime Ministers O’Neil and Rudd at the time provided for no arrangement for what would happen to the people the end. It was open-ended and we have the mess to clean-up.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“You’re talking about those that have been found not to be genuine refugees. What should they do? They should go back home. Because if we allow people who are not refugees to come here, we then displace people who have a legitimate claim to make of persecution like the Yazidis we brought in most recently under the 12,000 Syrian and Iraq program. So if you want to displace genuine refugees you allow those in that are here simply for an economic claim.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

 “The loss of one life is one too many, and I’m determined to get people off Manus, [and] to do it in such a way that we don’t restart boats.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

 “To start off, you open up the camps. You bring transparency, you actually process these people, and you start actually finding a place for these people to go. I think that is a huge change from what we’re doing at the moment.”

Sam Dastyari, Labor MP – Shadow Minister for Immigration

 

“Well we’re the Opposition, so we’re calling on the Government. Australia has a moral obligation to ensure that these refugees have access to essential services- including security, health services, medical services- and we want the Government to be upfront. The Turnbull Government must work with PNG to guarantee the safety and security of these people and these men should immediately relocate to alternative accommodation in East Lorengau and the other facilities so they can access water, food, shelter, and receive the appropriate medical attention.”

Sam Dastyari, Labor MP – Shadow Minister for Immigration

I’ve been feeling a bit defeated of late, going through the motions but not feeling like there’s any progress or that anything changes. From the personal to the political the treatment of refugees in this country feels appalling. Going from yet another house inspection to today’s rally (Rally + Occupy for Manus: End the Siege, Bring Them Here) felt like “another thing”, an action that might not be progress, an action that might not make a difference… Difference is a funny thing. Because as I walked with these people, sat with with people, sang with these people… I realised they are heartbroken too. Evil was named and called out. It was planning meeting, protest, sing-in, sit-in… the message from the front is that we must take courage from one another. We sit with Manus… how does Manus sit with us? We are angry and we are hopeful. We are not alone and there is work to do.

This is our happening on our watch. Recurring rally’s are happening every Friday in solidarity with the Manus men. We are living through a time of extraordinary refugee and migrant crisis, Australia is 87 times the size of Jordan and they are playing host to 2.7 million displaced persons. Developing regions host 86% of refugees, globally 1 in 200 refugees is a child. This isn’t a thing that’s going away anytime soon. We need not to only be defending the basic human rights of these 600 on Manus but countless others. Build the world you want to live in and get amongst it.

#BringThemHere #LetThemStay

Slow Home

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A hollow grief, a hallow grief

We light candles in defiance of the darkness
raising our lights high to honour those voices silenced and stories untold
mine goes out.
A small enough gesture and mine is snuffed out before
it can transmit its’, however fragile, beacon of hope.
Discouraged, I lower my arm and my head but
a hand, bearing a lighter, comes into my view.
We each have that power – to share the light we have.
I had forgotten but this stranger reminds me:
the fellowship isn’t only with the Other but each other too.
Touched by grief, I don’t immediately move away following the vigil
a Chinese international student approaches to ask in broken English:
“Why do these people gather here this way?”
I try to explain but realise asylum “seeker” evokes Potteresque imagery
I let it lie – elusive to gain, as much to do with luck as skill,
glittering just out of reach… there are worse metaphors.
“You all show much courage”, she says.
“How’s that?” I ask.
“In China, this would never be allowed.”
What seems little enough… not nearly enough…
is to this person unthinkable
and I am confronted by my privilege to be here.
She moves off and a man joins me on the library lawn
“The powers you must overcome…
they would keep you from expanding.”
He lights a cigarette.
“They are going backwards, except,
it seemed backward even the first time”
he sighs looking around, “It is little enough”.
It is little enough.

Tonight on the anniversary of the “Regional Resettlement” initiative 55 vigils are taking place across Australia. It is little enough. It is something…

 

Messages from Manus

Timeline: Four years of abuse

19 July 2013: Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea (PNG) so Australia can buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities. From this day forward anyone seeking protection and safety in Australia who arrive by boat will be forcibly transferred to PNG for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, be permanently settled there.
19 July 2013: The announcement causes distress amongst the people warehoused in detention in Nauru with peaceful protests escalating into violence.
3 August 2013: The Australian Government signs a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea.
17 February 2014: 23-year-old Reza Berati is murdered, and over 60 others injured, some of them seriously, on Manus Island. Numerous witness reports state Reza Berati was attacked by a group of G4S staff and at least one local staff member employed by The Salvation Army. Several eyewitnesses reported that one attacker picked up a large rock and hit Reza Berati on the head with it several times.
5September 2014: Hamid Khazaei, who was only 24 years old dies from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre on Manus Island. Inadequate medical care and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have let to to Mr Khazaei’s death.
26 September 2014: The Australian and Cambodian governments sign a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia.  This second deal again allows Australia to buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities.
18 November 2014: Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.
5 December 2014: bill passes both Houses providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries.
20 March 2015: The report from independent review into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru is released detailing reports of women being raped and allegations of children being sexually assaulted.
20 March 2015: A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers is intercepted by Australia. Its passengers are held at sea for nearly a month and undergo “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April.
28 May 2015: Thousands of men, women and children seeking protection are abandoned at sea in what is now known as the Andaman Sea ‘boat crisis’. Regional governments eventually agree to allow the boats to land but then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s callous response to Australia offering safety is “nope, nope, nope”.
4 June 2015: Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugeesarrive in Phnom Penh from Nauru. All of these people subsequently choose to return to their countries of origin, despite the fact that all four were found to have well-founded fears of persecution.
1 July 2015: The Australian Border Force Act takes effect making it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to speak about what they see in offshore detention.
5 October 2015: The Nauruan Government announces that the Regional Processing Centre will operate under an open centre arrangement.
29 October 2015: Amnesty International Australia publishes a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return peopleseeking asylum to Indonesia.
8 November 2015: Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, is found dead after escaping the centre.
19 February 2016: Australia again rejects the standing offer from New Zealand to accept 150 people from Nauru or Manus Island, failing to provide sensible, durable solutions for the people trapped there.
21 February 2016: Baby Asha, a one-year old who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment is released into community detention. This came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru.
23 March 2016: At the Ministerial Bali Process meeting a declaration was released (the Bali Declaration) which for the first time identified the need toprovide protection to refugees in the region.
15 April 2016: A refugee in Nauru is convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time.
26 April 2016: PNG’s Supreme Court rules that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
26 April 2016: Omid Masoumali, a refugee living in Nauru for three years sets himself on fire. After more than 24 hours he is medically evacuated to Australia where he dies in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.
2 May 2016: A young Somali refugee living in Nauru sets herself on fire. She is later flown to Australia by air ambulance suffering burns to 70% of her body.
5 May 2016: A boat with 12 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum who were intercepted by Australian authorities earlier in the week are screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.
10 May 2016: The Federal Court rules the Government must provide a woman,raped on Nauru, access to a safe and legal termination.
July 2016: Amnesty International’s Senior Director for research visits Nauru where she finds a system of deliberate abuse hidden behind wall of secrecy.
10 August 2016: The Guardian releases the Nauru files – thousands of leaked incident reports from Nauru detail assaults, sexual abuse and child abuse.
19 September: UN Global Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York misses opportunity to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
17 October 2016: In a new report Island of Despair’: Australia’s “processing” of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International find that the conditions to which refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture.
30 October 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tries to introduce legislation to ensure anyone taken to Nauru and Manus and then resettled anywhere in the world, would never be able to come to Australia.
13 November 2016: The Government takes an extreme step in shirking responsibility byannouncing an agreement with the United States for some of the refugees in offshore detention to be settled in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.
25 November 2016: Malaysia begins work on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, which in turn reduces number of people forced to take dangerous journeys in search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.
24 December 2016: Faysal Ishak Ahmed collapses at the Manus detention centre. He dies on Christmas Eve.
31 December 2016: The Indonesian President issues a Presidential Decree for refugees which for the first time provides people seeking asylum and refugees in Indonesia with a more formal legal status.
14 April 2017: PNG Soldiers fire directly into the Manus Island detention centre putting lives at risk. 9 people are injured. No one is held accountable.  
daniel berrigan

The Rev. Daniel Berrigan and some friends hold a vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on July 25, 1973, while fasting to protest the bombing in Cambodia. | AP

 

This has been a year of vigil and rally and protest and placard and march that sometimes feels like a long walk. It’s good to be reminded it’s all been done before, in whose footsteps we follow, and what wisdom we can learn from their journey to encourage our own…

 

  1. Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).
  2. Don’t be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?
  3. Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they’re growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.
  4. About practically everything in the world, there’s nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.
  5. On a long drive, there’s bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don’t go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don’t be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.
  6. Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don’t love yourself. They just endure. So do you.
  7. About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus’ specialty and he was heard to say: “Take up your couch and walk!”
  8. When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don’t use the earphones. Then you’ll be able to see what’s going on, but not understand what’s happening, and so you’ll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.
  9. Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
  10. Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.