Tag Archive: change


westword lmaw vigil 068

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

Faysal Ishak Ahmed

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We gathered today to acknowledge and show respect to Faysal Ishak Ahmed.

We gather knowing we will do this again. We will do this again because there will be more deaths. They are preventable. This is unacceptable.  We know this will happen again because it has happened and is still happening with 23 deaths in the last two years (Australian Border Deaths Database).  Perhaps it’s feeling like there’s too many vigils, we had one just last month… to this we say “Yes. There are too many vigils.”

The origin of the word “vigil” is to do with being awake and keeping watch. We want to acknowledge the sorrow, grief and anger of Faysal’s friends and family. The other survivors of Dafur who know how few survivors there were wondering whether they might ever feel at home here. Those yet in camps on Nauru or Manus who wonder what help, what hope, might yet come for them.

Faysal, refugee – yes, and also a son, a husband, a father, a human died at 27 years of age. Today we say his name, hold his picture up – we say not only that your death meant something, but your life meant something even though we did not know you.

I imagine Jesus on his knees praying in the garden of Gethsemane wondering what help, what hope, might yet come but having some sense of inevitability about his situation asking of his companions: “Can you not stay awake and watch with me for even an hour?”.   To those waiting in the camps it must seem as though we are asleep for surely if we knew they were sick, surely if we knew they were being hurt, surely if we knew they were hungry this would not be a situation we would let continue… I hold my goddaughter in my lap, she is just starting out at school – learning to read – I imagine her asking me in years to come when this is a social studies project at school “Where were you while this was happening? Why didn’t you do something? Why did it take so long to change?” and trying to explain how it could be that some of us, so many of us, should be “asleep”. Yes he had refugee status – that didn’t seem to make a difference. The PNG government declared the camps illegal – that didn’t seem to make a difference.   The UN said aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – that didn’t seem to make a difference… What will make a difference?  I overhear one woman say to another: “What people don’t understand is that to do nothing is to do something.”

 

We have met today on the Princes Bridge, I don’t know why. I look around while I wait for the formalities to begin and notice that all along the bridge is the Latin motto Vires Acquirit Eundo (the coat of arms of Melbourne) meaning ‘she gathers strength as she goes’ referring to the Roman goddess Fama or rumour personified. Following the speakers and a moment of silence, those holding flowers are invited to throw them from the bridge into the Yarra river and I realise my hope is that these vigils might gather strength as they go.

Those who are on their knees praying are asking us if we can be awake.
Those crying alone in the darkness are asking if we can stay awake with them.

Unbidden some of those at the vigil move out onto the road and block traffic on the bridge. They are asking us: “Are you awake?”

The next action calling for the camps to be closed, for the refugees seeking our protection to be given their mandated human rights, will be held on Sunday 9 April (Palm Sunday) – this is a question for people of all faiths and none: “Are you awake?”

 

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Consider looking into the Love Makes A Way movement or Refugee Action Collective for other ways to be involved and further details for the Palm Sunday event as it draws closer. I’ve drawn on inspiration from many of tonight’s vigil speakers above, thanks for your voice and advocacy.

The river water

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The river water

runs high and fast.

Unknown depths,

cloudy murk obscuring

what is usually

so clear.

The season

is changing.

The high tide

lifts debris that has

been stuck since the last

spring storms

and carries it away.

In the run-off and rain

new biodiversity are

introduced, seeds from

places never seen here

downstream.

The land alters under

the authority of this new flow

the landscape – forever changed.

Not better, not worse, but new.

Talitha Fraser

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Port Arthur memorial garden, by Michael Rawle / Flickr.com

This article was published on the Sojourners blog 15/12/2015 .

“Death has taken its toll. / Some pain knows no release / but the knowledge / of brave compassion / shines like a pool of peace.”

 

These words are engraved on the memorial pond at the Port Arthur mass shooting site in Australia. Nearby, a wooden cross is inscribed with the names of the 35 men, women, and children who died here. In contrast, a brochure at hand provides a simple explanation of what occurred in this place; it notably does not name the gunman. 1996: Australia’s last mass gun death.

 

After any traumatic event we ask ourselves, “What saves the next person from what has happened to me? How can I make sure no one sees what I have seen? Goes through what I have gone through?”… as bereaved, survivor, emergency responder, community member, minister.

 

Glenn Cumbers became an ordained minister of the local Church of Christ a mere six weeks before the Port Arthur massacre. The morning service was over and he was enjoying lunch at a home nearby when the sounds of shooting were heard. He and his companions were among the first responders. In the days that followed, the church was open 24 hours for anybody to come for prayer or to feel a bit of peace and quiet. There was ministering to the community and leading memorial services, private and public, as well as advocacy urging gun owners to act in the national interest: “We ask that the minority be willing to forgo their short-term wants for the long-term good of Australia.”

 

It is not insignificant to have all the Federal, States and Territories Parliaments of Australia pass one universal law. There was lobbying by many parties after the 1987 Queen Street massacre and the 1991 Strathfield massacre.

 

As Australians, we are not so many generations removed from penal colony settlement or “subduing the natives” (those were massacres, too, it warrants mentioning) that saw an “every man for himself” attitude become culturally embedded. But the 1996 massacre in Port Arthur saw a tipping point where the law was far behind popular opinion.

When changes to gun laws were first proposed, the member churches of the National Council of Churches welcomed the initiative and urged government to agree on and pass the legislation. 

right:  Minutes of The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), Friday 12 July 1996

 

The New South Wales Farmers Association, with its high rate of gun owners, also gave its support for a total ban on semiautomatics firearms. And proving that you can have our guns but not our sense of humour, NSW Farmers pointed out that with reforming gun laws Australians will still be able to bear arms, such as: bolt-action, centre-fire military rifles; lever-action, centre-fire sporting rifles; pump-action, centre-fire sporting rifles; rim-fire rifles with bolt, lever or pump actions, and double-barrelled shotguns. Further, a farmer commented, “If a shooter cannot knock down a fox with one of the weapons I have mentioned, the solution is not a semiautomatic firearm but an ophthalmologist with a centre-fire laser or, alternatively, a return to basic training.”

 

No one was taking our guns — we were giving them up. The gun control question should not be prefaced by what you have to lose, but by what you have to gain.

 

Glenn Cumbers left the church in 2004. He could no longer work as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder that had not been supported. Pouring himself out to the community and addressing their healing was his job, but who was healing the healer? In 2008, Stephen Robinson published a practical guidebook called Ministry in Disaster Settings: Lessons from the Edge that investigates the experiences of ministers, like Cumbers, who have been on the ground for some of the worst disasters of Australian history. Cumbers says, “I found that book was really the first step on the long journey of healing for me.”

 

We always ask: What saves the next person from what happened to me? What does brave compassion look like where you are? I don’t know. But I do know that if I had a gun, I would say to any family touched by gun violence: “I cannot do much, but if the world is a better place with just one less gun, have mine.”

 

In the words of former Australia Premier Barrie Unsworth, who lost re-election in 1991 advocating for stronger gun law, “It is not too late to do something positive.”

 

by Talitha Fraser

i believe love wins

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Today feels like a day for bright colours.  Uncharacteristically I am wearing one of the skirts I have made – full and colourful, no one around today to comment on it and I love that – what would we wear any given day if we thought no one would ever say anything?

I feel nervous carrying my homemade 009signs to the marriage equality march – do I  carry them facing inwards until I get there?  Am I going to draw negative attention from people that are anti-gay or anti-Christian? You are making a choice, to set yourself out, apart, from ‘normal’ people going about their ‘normal’ day, doing ‘normal’things.

To be contrary, I line them up beside me on the seat at the bus stop while I wait – people idling in the weekend traffic read them but no one says 005anything and I am almost disappointed… let’s do it, let’s talk about how we’re treating one another.  People see the signs – rainbow broadcasting
makes the topic clear – no one says anything… aah, I have found a new way to be invisible.

Now at the train station, I put in my headphones as I step into the train carriage, block out an uncaring world and I am tapped on the shoulder…

“Hey, you want to join us here in the marriage equality corner?”

…I am welcomed in, a place, a space made for me and my signs.  they look me over assessingly, am I like them?

“I haven’t ever been to a rally before, But I have been to the Sydney Mardi Gras – I hope it’s like that – there’s a power in people coming together from all over, no matter what their age, race, religion, gender orientation is… there’s something really powerful about that, ay?”

Yes.  Yes there is.

How much riskier must it be if your clothes or mannerisms or something “give you away” and make you feel like you’re carrying a rainbow coloured banner with you everywhere you go… I’m embarrassed of the fear I felt of some kind of retaliation for sticking my neck out… is this a fear people live with going out their door every day?

The act of solidarity isn’t just showing up at the parade but being willing to put yourself in a position to share the experience of the person being marginalised – so what if someone did yell something out of a car on the way past or defaced the sign or comes into my personal space with aggression.  Is this something gay people ask of themselves every day? “Do I wave the banner today or mute something of who I am so I don’t attract attention?” As with all movements perhaps it requires some to be be ‘extreme’ with it to broaden the range of what’s ‘normal’… maybe that’s literally carrying a rainbow banner – drawing some of the attention away from you over there to me right here.

It’s not the same, hating me when it’s not my lifestyle choice.  You have to have a conversation with me to  find out why I’m doing it – and I’ll have a conversation with you about why you aren’t.

 

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begin

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begin
begin
begin anywhere
set out
step out
that is where to start
one day you do it
different than yesterday
ever so slightly
and it changes the world

Talitha Fraser

Sing about it until it can be realised” is a quote from Ched at the Kinsler Institute earlier this year… a call to write, play and sing the songs of freedom until freedom is won.  During Love Makes A Way (LMAW) actions some supporters stay outside to bear witness to the action – singing, praying and advocating for those within.  So far this draws heavily on the freedom songs of the Negro Spirituals, changing the lyrics to familiar tunes but what are the songs for and from our own context?

Started brainstorming how these songs are effective/communicate… says without saying, not religious language but accessible, short, call and repeat/memorable/simple/easy to pick up, capture sadness/grief…

Here’s a couple of goes at playing around:

Let me in

There is room at the table x3

Let me in, let me in

There is room at the borders x3

Let me in, let me in

There is room in our hearts x3

Let me in, let me in

There is hope for a new tomorrow x3

Let me in, let me in

[can make up your own variations: there is room for… the children, in the playground, in the classroom, etc.]

And who is already speaking for these issues? who are our own voices in the wilderness calling for a world that is different?  Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, poet and cultural commentator, I’ve appropriated some of his words from a cartoon and arranged them so this can be sung as a round which is beautiful because when you’re looping “love is born” rings out through and over the “dark and troubled” and “when hope is dead”.

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And because I write words not music the best I can offer is a basic recording to give a gist with my blessings and my apologies!

LMAW songs

Love Makes A Way

#LoveMakesAWay is a movement of Christians 10559953_648730211878959_441484897271009707_nseeking an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies through prayer and nonviolent love in action.

A Christian movement based in seeking God, actions
are the last resort after other channels have been attempted and failed.  Invite the mainstream to engage.  Don’t care who knows we’re doing it, work behind the scenes, care whether the people who need it are being reached. Gospel tells us about the vision for the community that God envisions.  We want to find God in the eyes of those who are suffering.  In March 2014 1,138 children held in detention.  Non-violent direct action that creates tension, where people say “No way!” we want to present the opposing voice that “Love makes a way” in the civil disobedience traditions of Ghandi and Martin Luther King. We want to bring attention to how serious an issue is and communicate that the church is serious about it.  Encourage others to be bold and advocate in a stronger voice. 23 actions in 2014 – all agree children shouldn’t be in detention; care for them when they come out; rising up/mobilise church for policy change;  dialogue with faithful Christian conservative leaders.

The power, the glory are Yours – mean it.

Witness  of Christian faith.
Until we have a humane refugee/asylum seeker policy the LMAW campaign will continue.

Visiting the River

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eucalypt tree branches overhead

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Head is clamped in a vice.

Immobilising pain, immobilising

tongue and hand

I am unreconciled between who I wish I was

and who I am.

Longing for something (else) sacred

when I can run my hand through soft grass,

listen to the water going places and

be embraced by the over arching branches.

I feel like I have carried troubled violence

into a peacful place – the unrest within

I want to curl up here on the bank

a rest awhile – wake to the world being different

or myself.

What does it mean to be made in the

image of God?

Talitha Fraser

Compline @ The Cave

Lord let us accept, you are leading us into places unknown –

places in ourselves, and in our lives with the other.

Lord you remind us… “Be not afraid”

And so we ask for Your help dear God.

Help us to let go…

Of our defences that protect us, yet isolate us

Help us to let go…

Of our past failures, of shame & guilt

Help us to let go…

Of our resentments and compulsions that we feed

Help us to let go…

Of our romantic notions that lead to false expectations of others, of our world, of You.

Help us to let go…

Of the burden of others’ expectations when our resources run dry

Lord let us accept, you are leading us into places unknown –

places in ourselves, and in our lives with the other.

Lord you remind us… “Be not afraid”

And so we ask for Your help dear God.

Help us to let embrace…

The courage we need to grow close to one another

Help us to let embrace…

A spirit of forgiveness and hope

Help us to let embrace…

The liberation of our salvation

Help us to let embrace…

The time we need for renewal and transformation

Help us to let embrace…

The One who knows us and loves us without end.