Tag Archive: welcome


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Per my previous post, I delayed longer than I usually might to write this up because I’ve struggled to digest and know how to respond to all I heard… I still don’t really know how to respond I think I need to trust to that unfolding, and in the meantime, for whatever it’s worth, this is some of what was in my head and heart as I left the forum…

 

I walk away cognisant of all the ways I get to walk away… the river waters’ shimmer seems more beautiful, the air more sweet, the clouds and sky more open – I see and see again the freedom that I have like a fish coming to awareness of water and knowing it for what sustains me.  If freedom is like oxygen then we are suffocating these people.

We know. Australians know. The nurses know. The guards know. The psychiatrists know. The teachers know. The politicians know. The High Court knows. The UN knows… and the asylum seekers ask: how can they know but nothing has changed? 

 

risky journey in the deep water
carried lots of dream seeds with me
but now, dream seeds I have none

replaced my name with a number
please, please, call my name

risky journey in the deep water
save their life in the deep water
but killing them on arid land

replaced my name with a number
please, please, call my name

risky journey in the deep water

call us we are your neighbours
call us we are your friends
please, call us by our names

don’t want to leave our country
if we can but live free
please, call us by our names


 

“What can I do?” asks the nurse
“What can I do?” asks the doctor
“What can I do?” asks the teacher
First do no harm.

“What can I do second?” asks the nurse
“What can I do second?” asks the doctor
“What can I do second?” asks the teacher
Take a second.
What agency, what power, what strength do you have?
Use it.

Talitha Fraser

 

What can I do?

petition ~ direct contact ~ Refugee Action Collective ~ advocacy ~ financial support ~ actions – personal/political/liturgical ~ letter(s) to politicians ~ song ~
existing campaigns e.g. GetUp or LMAW ~ use your forums and voice e.g. blog

 

 

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April 2017 Refugee Action Collective Forum: [from left] Aziz from Manus (Skype), S. Ravi Nagaveeran (Nauru), Lucy Honan (Refugee Action Collective), Lynne Elworthy (Nurse)

 

 

 

 

 

Replaced my name with a number. Don’t want to leave our country if we can live free.  Men risk journey in the deep water.  Carried lots of dream seeds with me and now I have none. Last four days… no water and no food.  No life, no food and no hope.

We are not here to steal. We are not Captain Cook. Save their life in the water and killing them on the land. 29 April he died [friend set himself on fire]. Keep faith and don’t lose hope.  This morning I thought: “I want to kill myself.” I am nothing here.

Knock the back door, they didn’t break the door, they couldn’t find their way to the front door. We never wants to come to Australia only want to come free… to gets out of this hell… this human dumping ground.

I used my time writing, dreaming, giving good things… we are not your enemies. Call us – we are your neighbours, call us we are your friends, together we can make Australia great.

I still have to say my boat arrival number now. [not known by his name]

~Ravi


 

Activist – gives me a power, a strength, to have have that.

Australian Guantanamo Bay.
Name and codes that they are using are the same.
Now is the time for all Australians to know what is going on there.

Oct 2013: There was shooting, gates were open.
Staff who are paid to protect us ran away…
in this instance their job was to “take care of ourselves first”
We did not know if it was a drill, practice or something else.

April 2017: Someone from the local defense force, drunk, came to where
we were playing sport. We told him: “Go away”.
Two hours later there was firing at every angle on the centre.

We had enough suffering. We had enough human rights violations. Human beings like you but dehumanise you.  I don’t want much – shelter and some chance to live free.

Doors impregnable.  Only one option left: Risk life on the oceans…
survive = hero, drown = feed the fish. At least your soul is at peace.
Not heroes… criminals.
But if you look at the conditions for criminals in Australia
they are treated better than we are.
Our rights have been taken away.
My name has been taken away that my parents gave me. I’m am QNK002.

People need to know the truth.
We need people to write. Be one voice to fight for this policy.
We never forget. We very proud. We pray for you day and night to have the strength and the power for this policy to change.  For the day we can get our freedoms.

~ Aziz


 

[in response to Peter’s Duttons account of a child being brought into the Manus detention Centre]

One gate… another gatehouse… another gatehouse…
no one can go in that isn’t staff or a refugee.
“Walk of shame”

“What crime did I do to put me in jail for four years?”
Australia’s criminal system is for guilty people. Refugees have done nothing.  If an Australian prisoner is sick they get seen at a clinic > ambulance > hospital > ambulance > another hospital. On Manus – need a rubber stamp to get off Manus and it doesn’t come in time. Australian prisoners get visitors… see family.  On Manus no one comes unless working with refugees.

Built 2 new prisons on Manus. Spent billions to keep them on Manus. “Mum, if you want people to listen to you talk about the men on Manus you have to talk to their pockets.

No money, no papers, no place to go.
It’s a cage, a concrete cage.
No toilets, no water, no beds, no blankets.

Waste – serving no useful purpose. So much talent in there. COuld have worked, Australia could have something useful for the money they have spent. Really good sportsmen, rep Australia in weightlifting, Socceroos, cricket – this is the time they would be developing that talent that they’re wasting.

I knew it would be in the article but not that I’d be named. I wasn’t being brave I was just speaking what was in my heart.
{Aren’t you afraid of going to jail?}
My kids are growing up. I’m old enough. What difference does it make?

~ Lynne


 

IHMS left Manus? Still here. Three weeks ago, big problem, with no warning stopped working. Had problem with Health MInister of PNG – refused to renew contract. IHMS didn’t hand over all the files.  “What sort of medicine are you taking?”  We don’t know the names… nervous… I’m the patient… I don’t know.  Contract renewed for 3 months until the end of June – after that we don’t know, especially with medical files.  Could get ‘lost’ we don’t know. Not good health cover. System designed to hurt you mentally, physically… “Send a message… send you back…” mosquito bite like a ball (panadol and water), headaches (panadol and water), diarrhea (panadol and water), back ache (panadol and water)… we have these where we come from but we didn’t know it could fix everything! What we suffer from? Negligence. Like Faisal, every 3 days for 6 months I write for him. No trust, interpreter not interpreting everything.  Kicked out. “You’re not sick. Please stop coming here. Sick and tired of seeing your complaint coming every day”. Faisal asks community for help. [petition] …more than half the community signed. Taken to isolation. “If anything happens to me, take care of my kids. I’m going to that place. I don’t know what will happen there.” Two days later, heard he had passed away. IHMS designed to destroy us mentally and physically by the system.

~ Aziz


 

Magic panadol? Super water?
Let me know where to get that.

~ Ravi


 

No paper trail on the computer.
Nursing someone to get better to go back to Nauru – what role can the unions play?
Not sign discharge papers? Sent back 24-hours later.
Most unethical situation I have ever been in.
Told: “You’re  earning your money out of our blood.”
You would go there as a volunteer if you were allowed but you’re not.
You have to get paid to get in.

The Australian population doesn’t want to believe you’re telling the truth. Need doctors and nurses who have established trust to use their platform to advocate.

Despite everything these men are standing tall, standing straight.
Superhuman resiliency – respect to the men, past and present.

~Lynn

 

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We come together today to walk the way of the Southern Cross, and visit seven sites from our shared history.  There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.  We will hear the words of Christ on the cross, what might his words spoken in pain tell us?  We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

We acknowledge that we gather today on the land of the Marabalak people of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nations – people who have known the Creator Spirit, shared stories, and walked in this place since time immemorial – our elders past, present and future.

With the Creator Spirit
We walk the way of the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
We hear again the words of Christ on the cross
With God deep among us
We seek healing and justice in our land

 

Site 1: A thirst for justice

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We are standing outside a house.  As every person has a story, so does every house.

This house was a house of comfort.
It belonged to a woman called Sally Russell Cooper. In the 1930s’s she opened its front door as a low-income boarding house and welcomed Aboriginal people to come and live with her. There were three bedrooms inside and a spare room out the back. Sally kept her front door open to her people until the 1970’s. For many Indigenous Australians, this house was, as Elders Larry Walsh and Reg Bow once said, “a refuge from loneliness and homelessness for more than 40 years.”

This house was a house of protest.
The 1930’s onwards were a time of momentum for Aboriginal people. During the Depression and the Second World War many Aboriginal people came to Melbourne seeking work. The growing political movement for Aboriginal rights also attracted people to Melbourne’s west. Sally’s father, William Cooper, was a significant local figure in the Aboriginal political movement fighting for basic civil rights. For many of the Aboriginal people who stayed in this house, there was hope of work at Kinnears Rope Factory and other factories nearby.  But the stronger hope was the hope of justice.

This house was a house of light.
Sally held lots of beautiful parties in this house. This was an important opportunity for Aboriginal people to socialise and support one another as society made it very difficult for Aboriginal people to gather together in groups.  This house was well loved as a safe gathering place.

Consider this house. The door. The windows.  The memory. Remember its story.

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Action
Choose a bushflower tube-stock from the basket, as an Indigenous version of the Hyssop plant, and take it home to a place of earth of your choice. Remember the story of the Aboriginal people in this country as you watch it grow.

 

Site 2: With and with each other

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328 family violence incidents were reported in Maribyrnong in 2013 rising to 974 in 2016 – that increase in incidents, nearly tripling, is largely due to more people speaking out.  We know that a woman is killed in Australia by her male partner or ex-partner nearly every week.  The most common myths are that violence against women is caused by alcohol and drugs, a man’s violent upbringing, living in poverty, anger management problems or mental health problems but for violence against women to become a thing of the past we need to change the causes: gender inequality and rigid gender stereotypes.

This sculpture is called With and With Each Other by artist Tom Bills and it feels like a fitting place to stand to think about equality.

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Action
Let’s take hands and Pass the Peace – exchanging these words:

Say: Peace be with you…
Answer: And also with you.

How can we be doing this amongst our family, friends and neighbours? We need to know what safe touch looks and feels like through education and role modelling.

In making a circle with our arms we are symbolically acknowledging the widening ripples of the impacts of family violence on individuals self esteem, self-worth, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing… The impacts on individuals, families, neighbours and communities… As we release our hands the circle opens, representing our commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.

Let’s walk with someone new, someone you don’t know or someone you don’t see as often as we move to the next station.

 

Site 3: Finding a place to call home

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We are standing outside Foley House. This is a facility run by the Salvation Army that provides accommodation and support for 46 residents – all of whom have been homeless, and all of whom are living with a disability.

Finding a place to call home is one of our most basic needs. For our Aboriginal friends the trauma of being removed from their homes is still very real and present. For asylum seekers dislocation comes at great cost and much grief.

But homelessness does not discriminate – our social dysfunction makes it a real possibility for anyone. The loss or casualisation of a job, the breakdown of a family, the rent increase from a landlord, the need to flee violence in the home, the disintegration of health, the history of abuse or neglect that is relived on a daily basis, the self-medication through drugs or alcohol: these are all social realities that can thrust any of us into homelessness.

There were 762 people who were homeless in the electorate of Footscray on Census night in 2011. Things are getting worse: this figure is 29 per cent more than in 2006. Across Victoria, there are 22,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. A skewed housing market benefits some greatly but places unbearable pressure on those at the bottom end. The injustice is often felt most strongly for those enduring the uncertainty of the private rental market. We live in a community where houses are seen as investments, rather than homes in which to live and thrive.

Action
Walk with a stone in your shoe as we move to our next location; as a reminder of the constant pain and anxiety faced by those who are struggling to find a place to call home. Are you facing this anxiety yourself? Give your stone to a friend to hold.

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Site 4: Room for all

Sometimes coming to Centrelink can feel like our own crucifixion; Our dependence on a system for which we detest; An experience of isolation and abandonment, judgements from ourselves and others about how we do and don’t fit in; About whether we are enough. A painful waiting that only allows you to survive – and gives no kind word, no compassion, and no understanding of who you really are.

Inequality and poverty in Australia are growing. There are now about 2.9 million people living in poverty, including 731,300 kids.  Centrelink will never be enough (not that that is new to anyone). It is like a well from which we draw water, and in Australia, it seems to be an increasing drought not only of money, but of healthy soil, and healthy people; people whose lives are rich in compassion, joy, generosity and the types of kindness that sows grace amongst the powers.

Today we remember that Christ became that spring when he called us into his family as he called John into his both spiritually and literally. He seeded in us the knowledge that we are duty bound to honour our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters in faith. To know that our own growth and ability to live is intrinsically caught up in family; a family that transcends bloodlines, a family that invites us to make bigger our sense of home, that calls us to dig our own wells.

Action
Place a dollar (provided) on the note at the foot of Centrelink:

For our debts and for their debts, we cannot pay.
Christ is enough.
Power remember Mercy;
Remember where we grow.
Remember those who hold us.
Remember those who raise us.
Remember those who crush us.
Woman here lives your son. Son here lives your mother.
Remember your way home. Remember Me.

 

Site 5: Seeking refuge and finding welcome

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Footscray is a community that generation after generation of migrant has made home. These days it is a multicultural hub with service providers such as the ASRC and community groups such as the Welcome West Wagon working alongside smaller community groups and individuals as well as movements such as Love Makes a Way to create welcome for people seeking asylum & refugees. People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are often left in limbo for many years.

A friend of ours, Maria, is an East Timorese woman who through a combination of civil war in her homeland, loss of family members and marriage breakdown has found herself stateless and alone with her young son in a foreign country. Under the terms of her temporary protection visa, she has limited work rights and little way to support herself and her son. She is reliant on friends and community agencies such as the Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for accommodation, legal advocacy and food. At the present time she’s been in limbo for over five years, with little idea of when a decision may be handed down by the minister for immigration. She may be granted permanent residency and begin the process of building a life here, or she may be forced to leave. She prays every day for a permanent home in Australia. She lives generously in our community household, lovingly raising her son and extending friendship and help to others.

We acknowledge the perseverance of those seeking asylum and the commitment of all those who go out of their way to create a sense of welcome to refugees and those seeking asylum.

Action
With this chalk we leave our mark and remember that in this multicultural neighbourhood, we are mixed together: rich and poor; Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Italian, Scottish, indigenous; students, workers and non-workers; believers, agnostics and atheists; children and adults of all ages. We acknowledge the tensions and divisions that often exist between us.

We celebrate the diversity we see around us, and how it reflects the beauty of God. We leave our symbol of welcome to be reminded that we are created for connection; for family, for friendship, for shared work, for love. We leave our mark to remember that we need each other and that we are stronger.

 

Site 6: There is a place for you

IMG_5096On a Friday night in November of 2016, three LGBT+ people were assaulted in Footscray after being chased by three men. Security did not step in to stop the attack, and the three LGBT+ had to wait for 25 minutes before deciding to walk to the police station because no patrol car showed up. When the victims reported that the assault was a hate-crime against transgender and queer people, those details were not included by police officers. Like so many others in history, the hatred against these people for their diversity was ignored. The identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people has been ignored and persecuted in Australia.

When I was attending church, I was also asked not to raise my own questions, my doubts, my insecurities and my suffering as a gay person of faith. I was told, in person, that I was broken, and that my capacity for love was corrupted. After an act of honesty, the leadership of the church wanted me to silently accept that I would only be embraced in that faith community if I lived by standards which violated my own conscience and divine design.

We reflect on Jesus’ words to remember that ignorance, fear, and pride often stand in the way of our choice to extend Godly hospitality to our LGBT+ neighbour. In our own lack of love we fail to love our neighbour as we would ourselves. We reflect on the ways that we have excluded and silenced our LGBT+ neighbours, like the authorities attempted to silence the gospel. We reflect on the way that LGBT+ have been forsaken, like Jesus himself was on the cross.

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Action
We now stand in silent prayer for 30 seconds to honour the suffering of LGBT+ people who were forsaken.

Together we pray aloud, ‘Help us, Lord of all, to no longer forsake our LGBT+ neighbour’.

Place the rainbow crucifix with a prayer on the wall of the police station as a sign of the visibility of LGBT+ suffering.

 

Site 7: Earth out of Balance

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We all rely on the earth and its natural systems for life itself.

Its resources sustain us and grow us, yet our actions and failure to be good custodians continues to push things out of balance.  Taking more than we need, prioritising short term gain over long term sustainable thinking – we are seeing mountains and rivers be given legal identity so that they can be given a voice to speak in their own best interests.

Human activity is altering the climate, changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms such as cyclone Debbie and Cook, we acknowledge those yet rebuilding and recovering in the wake of these storms.

To emphasise this imbalance, sea levels are predicted to rise by at least 600mm by 2070… that’s within most of our lifetimes.  At projected levels, this change in sea level will widen the Maribyrnong River, flood lower lying areas, and begin to change the face of our locality. A sea level rise of just 1m would threaten the surrounding homes and businesses and displace thousands. It would flood all of the city’s major cargo shipping docks and surrounding cargo storage areas, many of which are in our neighbourhood.

The call to be “custodians of creation” is a critical one, which drags us from the crushing weight of a global disaster to a place of restoration, respect and gratitude.

Action
Look around for something that doesn’t belong in this place; perhaps some rubbish or some weeds. Carry it with you as we start to travel to the next site, until you find a spot better suited for your rubbish to be placed.

Reflect on the ways your actions may keep creation out of balance.

Consider your role as a custodian.

Plan some simple steps to begin the healing process.

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Photo credit: Maya Stark

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action.
Remember that justice is coming; God’s reign is coming

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Acknowledgements and Story

Aunty Doreen Wandin renamed Spencer St station to Southern Cross because they were able to see stars at the homestead in Coranderrk. Aunty Joy Wandin named Wurundjeri Way… We identify this constellation with “home”, and commit to the journey of finding and following the way home under these stars.

Uncle Wanta Jampijimpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body… We acknowledge the terrible and complex legacy of the church as colonisers in this place and give deep thanks for elders wisdom and grace in leading us to deeper truth and understanding the Creator Spirit who has always been here in this place.

Bill Wylie Kellerman, co-author of “Resistance and Public Liturgy”, role models and teaches us that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said: “We believe God has already intervened, breaking in to break out on behalf of human kind.  We recognise the authority of God [as bigger/beyond figureheads of power], we believe this is the meaning of the resurrection and we have come to say so”…  What does it mean for us – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a framework of hope as people of all faiths and none?

The Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community who shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for right relationship between people and with the land… We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

 

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The Walk for Justice for Refugees is about standing up for the human rights of those seeking asylum in Australia. This largely secular action is held on Palm Sunday – as people of faith, knowing there is a way where it seems there is no way – how might we hold a space to liturgise and lament and to sing within this broader movement? The following is a bit of a photo essay from the day with some of our thinking around what we are trying to create and hold space for by participating in events like these.

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Welcome is a complex issue on un-ceded land. Although palms might be the branch of Welcome in Jerusalem in this country gum leaves have a lot of symbolism – burned they are said to have healing and cleansing properties of bad spirits. How spirit-sore and shadowed are refugees arriving in Australia? If a member of the Wurundjeri offers you gum leaves they are indicating that you are welcome to everything from the tops of the leaves to the roots of the earth, we are symbolically linked and share in honouring the ancestors that have tended the land for many, many thousands of years. Is it appropriate to carry gum leaves in the walk? Or both gum leaves and palm fronds to acknowledge this complexity?

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This group is about attending the Palm Sunday march as a cohort – how might we want to distinguish ourselves within the broader crowd? what message of kingdom-on-earth do we have to communicate? One example is that often the crowd chants at these configure themselves as “anti” something and can communicate negativity, what might a message be that communicates hope and indicates what we are “for”?

Above Sam has an IHH bag, her LMAW #Bringthemhere hat, some of the Million Stars Against Violence and bracken from Gembrook Retreat as her foliage.

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Welcoming people from other countries since time immemorial. Responding to “boat people” since 1788. The walk is coming up this Sunday – what do you want to say about welcome this weekend? Is it short, percussive and meaningful? How about: “Bring them here. Let them stay. We believe love makes a way”? What is the sound bite and deep heart’s call to justice you want to hear called out?

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Here’s some feel-good clickbait if you haven’t already seen it (watch it again anyway), when we stop using labels that create designations of ‘them’ and ‘us’ we might have more in common than we know. I was listening to Fly My Pretties yesterday, the lyrics of the song are “We can make a life, we can make a life worth living”. That is a hope of people arriving here and for all of us who see the image of God in every person we meet and want to see God’s kingdom here on earth – let’s make the world we want to live in.

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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.” Here are some examples of prayer stations that explore this idea of “You are welcome here” using scripture references from Ched Myers book Our God is Undocumented” – whose voices set and shape the ways you show welcome?

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What is your cultural tail? 28% of Australians were born overseas (Census 2016), many more would have parents born overseas. When we say things like “I’m nothing” or “I have no culture” it’s worth noting that only the dominant-culture can say that, this white-washing language (pun intended) at best colonises existing culture and at worst ignores it: the legacy of Terra Nullius continues. Naming our own cultural tail is significant for relating well to the culture that was and is already here as well as affirming and celebrating cultural diversity generally in Australia. Is there something you can wear to the Palm Sunday march that could celebrate cultural diversity? An item of clothing or jewellery, a badge or flag that celebrates your cultural history and thereby all culture – past and present?

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On singing: many songs we might sing together are short, rounds, call and repeat don’t worry about song sheets or knowing the words… please bring your own too – we love learning new ones so that we can sing about it until it can be realised!

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 4: Seeking justice for the poor

We value God’s priority for the poor and seek to prioritise the marginalised of Footscray.  We do not want to just show mercy, but instead offer our lives, in voice and activity, with those who we seek to serve.

Biblical basis: Jeremiah 22:16, James 2: 1-5


 

Let’s read the value together… what words/phrases stand out?

Who do we think are “the poor”?

Those who are poor in heart? in spirit? or without money?  It’s those who are poor in spirit that are worst off = those who feel empty.  When you eat you’re full. If you don’t eat you’re empty.

We need to be helping one another more.

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?
What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Seeking justice for the poor?

Jeremiah passage brought to mind people such as Donald Trump and Gina Rinehart…

Who gets behind and left out? What kinds of people?

What does it mean to “have a huge head-start in the faith stakes”?
Know how to be grateful.


 

 

Jeremiah 22: 16-17

“Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,

who makes a fine house but destroys lives,

Who cheats his workers

and won’t pay them for their work,

Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion

with spacious rooms and fancy windows.

I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods

and the latest in interior decor.’

So, that makes you a king—

living in a fancy palace?

Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?

He did what was right and treated people fairly,

And things went well with him.

He stuck up for the down-and-out,

And things went well for Judah.

Isn’t this what it means to know me?”

God’s Decree!

“But you’re blind and brainless.

All you think about is yourself,

Taking advantage of the weak,

bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

The Message

 

James 2: 1-10

……..Sisters and brothers, if you really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, how come you still play favourites? If people walk into one of your meetings and you make a fuss of the ones dressed up to the nines and looking a million dollars, ushering them to the best seats in the house, while at the same time turning up your nose at those dressed like battlers, down on their luck, telling them to stand out in the foyer, aren’t you practicing apartheid, segregating God’s children? You’re as crooked as a judge who bases your sentence on the length of your skirt!

……..Get this straight in your minds, dear friends. God has turned the world’s opinion polls upside down. Those who have been deprived of what the world values have a huge head-start in the faith stakes. Their names are at the top of the list of those who God has chosen to inherit the riches of the kingdom. All who love God have an equal share in God’s promises, but you’re insulting some of them by means-testing your welcome.

 

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

Who are “the poor” in Footscray?

Offer our lives – in voice and activity…

  • what ways are we doing this now?
  • what ways could we start?

 

N.B. This post may be a negative trigger for survivors of physical and sexual abuse.

This morning we held a peaceful Love Makes a Way vigil outside Tim Watts office in Footscray as part of a bigger movement in response to the heart-wrenching incident reports leaked last week to The Guardian known as the Nauru Files. LMAW members and friends from a wide range of asylum seeker advocacy groups converged on over 45 MP offices and Immigration Dept offices across Australia in proIMG_0648test.

Armed with paper dolls to symbolise the men, women and children
who have been abused and traumatised by offshore detention, these small groups read from the incident reports, heard poetry from former refugees and demanded the Government ‪#‎CloseTheCamps‬ and ‪#‎BringThemHere‬

Welcome. We acknowledge that we gather today, to sing and pray, on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.  

I’m sure most of you here are already across the Love Makes A Way movement and what it’s about, we don’t really have words to respond to these leaked Nauru Files. These dolls that you see here, we will be leaving them up and the reason for that is that it will mean someone here at Tim Watts office will have to physically engage in the act of taking them down. The lives of these children, or these people are in their hands. Written on some of these images are the words of case workers and people in detention centres – stories of sexual and physical abuse. We put these images here as a symbol of these people that are entrusted to our care, to our politicians care, and we don’t think they’re doing a very good job with the responsibility that has been entrusted to them.  In the tradition of the civil rights movement we want to sing some songs that inspire and speak to the world we want to live in and welcome these people to join us in.

 


There is room

There is room at the table (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is room at the border (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is room in our hearts (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

There is hope for a new tomorrow (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

We say love makes a way (x3)
Bring them here, let them stay.

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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 will bring them here, hold on.

We are here to sing and shout,
Why you keeping God’s children out?
We say love will let them stay, 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 will bring them here, hold on.

We have room in our hearts to care
We have plenty enough to share
We say, love will let them stay, hold on.


 

We shall bring them here
(words adapted from We shall overcome)

We shall bring them here, we shall bring them here
We shall bring them here some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall bring them here some day

We will not keep silent, we will not keep silent
We will not keep silent today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We will not keep silent today

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free
The truth shall make us free some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
The truth shall make us free some day

We are not afraid, we are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We are not afraid today

We shall let them stay, we shall let them stay
We shall let them stay some day
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall let them stay some day


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As I went down to Tims office to pray
(words adapted from As I went down to the river to pray)

1) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall help us bring them here?
Good Lord show me the way!

O sisters let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O sisters let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

2) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall call for a change of heart?
Good Lord show me the way!

O brothers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O brothers, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

3) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall raise their voices here?
Good Lord show me the way

O mothers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O mothers let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

4) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall work for a better plan?
Good Lord show me the way

O fathers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O fathers, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

5) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall share these boundless plains?
Good Lord show me the way

O people, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O people, let’s go down
Down to Tim’s office to pray

6) As I went down to Tim’s office to pray
Welcome the refugee, let them stay
And who shall help us bring them here?
Good Lord show me the way


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READING — ‘HOME’ (Warsan Shire)

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as
well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin
factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases
you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of
doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem
under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport
toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going
back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the
stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles
travelled
means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they
want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a
sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.


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Were you there?

Were you there when they turned the boats away?
Were you there when they turned the boats away?
Ohhh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they turned the boats away?

Were you there when our nation turned its face?….

Were you there when the child was locked away?….

Were you there when the abuses came to light?…..

We will pray until love can make a way…..


 

Our hearts’ song is to close the camps and bring them here and we’ll keep singing, praying and turning up until love makes a way…

 

My first visit to a freedom2be event, their mission is:

To save lives, prevent harm and empower LGBTI people from Christian backgrounds through reconciliation of their sexuality and/or gender identity, and their faith.

 

 

Guest speaker tonight is Padraig O Tuama – poet, theologian and group worker…

“Gay people are told structurally and personally they are less,
it’s an abomination to be told that or to believe it.”

Question: What’s a lovely thing someone said about you once?
Storytelling  creates safe space – curiosity moves people/creates space…

“Small gestures of human kindness are the beginning point of something nice”

Poem – The visit of the queen of the lesbians to the prayer group of men
who happen to be gay

When she came to visit
she said:
Don’t ask me.
I’m just the driver.
When she came to visit
she said:
Questions reveal much
about the secrets of the questioner.
When she came to visit she said:
Ask a better question lads.
She said: Misogyny is no respecter of your homo-andro-centric
little worldwinds.
When she came to visit
she said:
Just because you don’t want to screw us
Doesn’t mean you don’t screw us.
So,
Don’t ask me to visit you.
Answer your own queries, queries.
When she came to visit she said:
Cook for us instead.
That’s what the queen of the lesbians said.

A friend of mine pointed out to me that of all the titles that the chief lesbian might choose for herself the word ‘queen’ would be one that she would leave for the boys…

Poem – day of the living

She entered a room full of the deviant queers
Everything from her ears
to feet was burning.

She looked around the slew of sinners
and everything that was in her said:
Just leave.

And she heard all the years of teaching
that participation
in this kind of congregation
is a degradation
a journey away from salvation.

And she sat on a plain brown chair
She sat, twisted her hat in nervous fingers
And she sat,
even though her history was screaming at her:

Leave. Leave. Leave.
Leave now.
Leave quickly.
Leave. Leave. Leave.

And at the introduction
she breathed when it came to be her turn.

She breathed and she said:
This is my first time in a room full of…….us.
She breathed.

Poem – what I needed to hear – “the wonder of God is where your journey begins”

“If a God could exist  that loved me,
what might that God say to me?”

“It has taken years to continue to live into the truth that if I believe we are from God and for God, then we are from Goodness and for Goodness. To greet sorrow today does not mean that sorrow will be there tomorrow. Happiness comes too, and grief, and tiredness, disappointment, surprise and energy. Chaos and fulfilment will be named as well as delight and despair. This is the truth of being here, wherever here is today. It may not be permanent but it is here. I will probably leave here, and I will probably return. To deny here is to harrow the heart. Hello to here.”

― Pádraig Ó Tuama, In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World

Poem – returning “I hear you’re gay now, are you still Christian?”

 

 

“I need to be forgiven for a lot of things
but not my love”

Poem – Intercession for Lesbian and Gay Ugandans

This is not a liberal agenda.
Think about the people sleeping in the prison in
Uganda.

These are bodies like yours and mine.
Close your eyes. Please, close them.
Put the fingers of your one hand
to the wrist of the other
and keep your pulse a moment.

Are you calm?
Are you content, in touching your own skin
with your own safe and holy skin?

Think about the people sleeping in the prison in
Uganda.

This is not a liberal agenda.
These are people.
Not quite corpses…..yet.
And it’s not about forgetting all your morals
with some rationalist adjustment
or some sad subjective judgment.

The Samaritan did not sin,
yet still was hated,
berated,
judged and deemed a lesser kind of human.

Think about the people sleeping in the prison in
Uganda.

This is not a liberal agenda.

“There are serious things to pay attention to.
We need to name our marginalisation and our privilege.
We learn our own dignity by naming our complicity.”

poem – who do you say that I am?

You say it’s unnatural,
hoping I might speak of boybirds loving boybirds
or girlbirds loving girlbirds,
so that you can then say:
Why are you speaking about animals?
Is that how you see yourself?
And as for Sodom,
you speak with no regard for Lot’s daughters,
or all those other lost voices
in the unreported Abu Grahibs of our most recent century.
So how are we to talk
while we travel with each other?
I, for one, will carve my own fury into a pencil
and scribble midrash on the map of our shared future
hoping you might learn the names
of places you’ve never seen.
So listen!
Sex and the text
are strange things surely.
What we read
and the way we read
are two different things.
Let us hope that
lies be undone
and untruth be told out loud
so that a path may be revealed
before us

poem – the facts of life

love

Some notes from the Surrender panel session:

Loving Welcome or Fear and Hate?
The displacement of people and rapid rise of refugees is a global challenge. How can we as ordinary everyday people in local communities be part of Christ’s alternative of loving welcome rather than feel overwhelmed by the voices of fear and hate?

 

In what way you are currently involved with asylum seekers or refugees?

I live at the Salvos Community House in Footscray with Bron – House Manager, Maria and her son who are asylum seekers from East Timor, and Hawo and Omar and their family – refugees from Somalia.  There’s ten of us who live in and many others who work, visit or are part of the community coming and going.

How did you come to be doing this work?
I’ve been a member of several intentional communities, Urban Seed working with the homeless community in Melbourne CBD, Seeds City then Seeds Footscray… participation required asking of myself “who is my neighbour?” and seeking to live a life more engaged with those around me.  I remember intentionally working as an admin at Urban Seed – looking at the residents there and saying “I could never do that”.  It was only two weeks after I moved into the house at Droop St September last year that the opportunity to invite Hawo and her family to join us arose… you could say I fluked it!
I’ll be honest, I had ideas about what living there would be like – I had just moved in and was unpacking things and setting things up.  I felt both grief and incovenience when I had to re-pack things so recently unpacked to make room for these guys moving in.  I remember going for a walk with stuff running through my head, “How is this going to work? How can I make them feel welcome or at home here, when I hardly feel at home here myself? How can I teach them where things go when I don’t know where they go?” I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going and a street I thought cut through turned out to be a dead-end so I had to backtrack on myself the way I had come. As I turned back, I crossed to walk on the other side of the street and found a basket of clean clothing sitting out in hardwaste.  And I picked it up and I carried it home with me.  It feel like a symbol of Providence.  God saying, “I will give you what you need, when you need it and send no more than you can carry” and really understanding that not to be just practical needs but spiritual and emotional needs as well.
How has this work changed you and your community? What have you learnt?
The house has been a hub for lots of projects and having a lot more people living-in is a big shift in focus for the community, there are less spaces available for projects as more people need the kitchen, the lounge, the bathroom… these areas on the ground floor of the main house used to be common space and kept really tidy for external groups coming in, we just can’t maintain that when its lived in and used by so many.  This is a valuable factor in the community therapy model that sees us learn from one another by sharing life together. That main floor bathroom is used by Hawo and her family who are Muslim and wash several times a day prior to praying – water is splashed over the sinks and floor and then we walk in and out… it’s hard not to look at the “muddy” footprints on the floor and think it’s dirty.  Do they make my bathroom dirty or do I profane the place the prepare to pray?  Living together gives us the opportunity to confront our ideas of what we might consider is the ‘normal’ or the ‘right’ way of doing things. It’s a privilege, and a discipline, to lean into that learning curve. 
When Hawo and her family first came to move in we wanted to make them feel welcome so we put up a sign that said “Welcome” in Somalian and English, laminated a Somalian proverb about hearth fires burning indicating which cupboards in the kitchen would be theirs, made a noticeboard that had magnets with all our names, photos, days of the week, house activities… you know what? They weren’t literate in Somalian let alone English.  You set out with these good intentions and more often than not you get it wrong.  We all of us try to say and do the right thing and can often end up saying and doing the wrong thing – that is true of ANY family.
What is the best thing about it?
Moments of synergy in our multicultural and interfaith mix are pretty special… one morning I woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep so I wandered out into the garden and read 7 Sacred Pauses by the light of my phone, that’s a poetic, monastic rhythm of prayer, and as I came back in I passed Hawo coming out of washing in the bathroom to go to her prayer mat in the lounge. By the time Hawo has prayed, Maria and her son will rise to say their morning Catholic prayers together… we don’t all pray together, at the same time or in the same way but we do all pray.  The food is pretty amazing too!
What is one of the greatest challenges?
One of the greatest challenges for me is being an introvert and finding a balance of time by myself that’s fairly quiet, noise generally can be issue – for instance Bron does shift work as an emergency vet nurse and might need to sleep during the day – but as you hear the prayer ululations on someones phone as they move from room to room, the sounds of cooking and being able to tell who it is by what time of day it is, there is music, TV  and conversation (continuously!) that represents the rapid language and cultural assimilation  of our newest housemates, the soccer pitch is almost as likely to have a Somalian singing clap-dance as a kick-round happening… there is a rhythm, or a life-beat, to these sounds that shapes our sense of home…and I can always go out!
Have you got involved in any of the political dimensions of the asylum seeker ‘issue’? If so, how has that connected with the loving welcome you are extending in your context?
We engage in a few different ways, we’d attend rally’s and vigils, write letters of support, accompany housemates to appointments as needed.  Recently we hosted a picnic outside the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre on the first Sunday of Lent as a demonstration of the act of welcome we’d like to see extended to refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Australia. We invited our housemates to write the word “welcome” in their languages of origin on a plate and set that at a place at the table, creating space for the ‘other’ a symbol of hospitality and what we have to share… there is room at the table. We sang some songs from the Love Makes a Way movement and linked the event to the #LetThemStay initiative.
For people who are wondering how they might engage with refugees and asylum seekers, do you have any words of advice?
Well, personally, I’ve needed the intentional community model – to move in where the connections and relationships already exist.  I can’t make a case for connecting with refugees and asylum seekers over any other calling but I would encourage everyone to consider for themselves the question “Who is my neighbour?”.   Know yourself – do what comes naturally for you. If your feeling reckless, you might pray: “Here I am, send me”.  God is already at work in your neighbourhood and in the lives of those you know… don’t take the approach that you have to start up something new, ask instead to see where God is already working and how to get alongside.
What we do isn’t that “special”.  A sacred, ordinary day for me might look like going to a local cafe for a Vietnamese roll with Maria and hearing the latest on her VISA uncertainty, she currently re-applies every 3 months.  I can’t do anything about that, but I can listen and hold some of the fear of that uncertainty with her.  I get back to the house and work with Mohammed on some Newstart job applications, it takes us 2 hours to do four applications – it might be faster if I did it myself but that doesn’t develop his independence to be able to do it on his own. The apricot tree in our backyard is fruiting so I collect it all and start to make jam not thinking through the sheer volume of sugar required to see the project through – everyone raids their supplies to get me over the line and it takes finishing off 8 packets of five different kinds of sugar to get  the jam over the line.  We are all in this together, meeting one anothers needs and everyone has something to give. 
Is there anything else you would like to say today?
I think there is an epidemic of loneliness – not just for refugees and asylum seekers making a new start but all of us – despite our advances in technology and communication – maybe because of them.  What I think everyone is looking for is home, belonging and family.  How can we share our home? How can we invite people to feel belonging? How can we be family to one another?

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Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

On Sunday 14 February we held a picnic lunch at the immigration detention centre in Maribyrnong. The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

***

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Wominjeka, we acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation have gathered since time immemorial to tell stories, sing songs and share food together. We are gathered here today to do a little of all these things ourselves: tell stories, sing songs and share some food together around this idea of showing welcome to refugees and asylum seekers and we have chosen a specific place, time and context in which to do that.

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We are standing here in the carpark of what is now the VicUni Student Village…this used to be the site of the Pyrotechnic Section of an Explosives Factory (1942) which was built to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades during the Second World War… a section of this was converted to the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel (1966). Over here behind us is the new purpose-built Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (1983) – we are standing where refugees and migrants have been arriving for the last 50 years.

We are standing here at a particular time.  Today is Sunday 14 February, the first Sunday of Lent and Valentines Day – let’s show the love! The first Sunday of Lent would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion and the intention of this picnic is to physically create the kingdom space we would like to live in – demonstrating the kind of welcome and abundant hospitality we as Christians believe Jesus might extend and asking of our own discipleship how we feel called to respond.

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We are gathering during a particular context.  The Premier of our own state has come out against the federally legislated law, medical practitioners are refusing to sign off of returning patients to off-shore detention and the UN has condemned the treatment of refugees as breaching human rights… the government, media, society are all sending strong messages – in an environment that seems more focused on reacting out of fear than love, how might we respond with clarity and compassion?IMG_7334

We have folded layers of symbolism into our picnic today… you can see the crocheted heart bunting by Bron for Valentines Day, we have flags representing some of those countries and cultures making up the population of those in our detention centres, and we have empty plates – places set at the table for the ‘other’.  We live with asylum IMG_7343seekers and refugees, we invited them to write the word WELCOME in the language of their cultures on one of the plates and symbolically be represented here and we remember those stories that are still unfolding.

That is about as much story as there is from me, so let’s move on to the singing! We’re very lucky to have Sam here to be the lead liturgist today so look to her for any cues – we’re not going to sing these through a set number of times or anything, we’ll just keep going until she signals otherwise.

So, I will invite you to stand if you want to, in this place, at this time in this context and sing with me, this is not a new idea… we sing in the tradition of so many justice movements: civil rights, suffragettes, apartheid, slavery…in the words of Ched Myers to “Sing about it, until it can be realised”.

This first one is from the Ngatiawa River Monastry, up the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand, a contemporary contemplative community retreat centre.

 

Given for you  [link here to original version on the Ngatiawa website]

 This is my body given for you

Remember me.

This is my blood of forgiveness,

Remember me.

 

Tricia Watts is an Australian singer, composer, she’s used singing and dance for advocacy and therapy and to call people to unite in heart and voice. This next song is from her resource titled ‘Sanctuary’.   We want to offer Sanctuary, we want to link hand in hand, we want to hear the voice of justice cry.

 

Justice Cry

Hear the voice of justice cry,

Moving through our land,

Ringing out oer hills and plains,

Linking hand in hand.

 

Well, I guess the credit or the blame for this one is on me… many of you will have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement. They have undertaken a variety of actions but in particular sitting in politicians offices and praying for them has attracted media coverage. What might be less known, is that while the actions are being undertaken inside, there is a support team outside praying, singing and bearing witness to, and holding vigil with, what happens within. Samara has been one of the people playing that part and collating a Love Makes A Way song book. And as we were talking about it once we remarked the we were drawing heavily on the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement but their style and language were written for a particular context and a particular time – certainly we can borrow their songs but Samara posed the questions “Where are our songs? Where is the style or the voice arising out of our own context?” This song came out of trying to answer that… as I looked at the Freedom songs I felt like they communicated grief but called for hope, they were often short and memorable because as your walking around you need songs people can just pick up even if they don’t have the words in front of them. I wrote this trying to find words for a situation I don’t have words to explain. You might feel moved to offer your own words here in a verse … there is room for the children, there is room in our playgrounds… feel free to lead us! Speaking specifically to context, this was originally written “Let them in, let them in” but with the Sanctuary #LetThemStay initiative just this past week as we were rehearsing we changed it to read “Let them in, let them stay”

 

There is room

There is room at the table (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room at the border (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room in our hearts (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is hope for a new tomorrow (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

Flowing on from the last song and our desire to have local songs coming out of our own context, I had a look around for who might already be producing words that hold this sense of lament and hope, short and memorable… this led me to make up the melody for the round you’re about to hear to Leunigs Love Is Born.  I think Leunig is a bit of a prophet, speaking out of hope and darkness, on behalf of many voices… I think “love is born”.

 

Love is Born [link here to a recording by Nathan Brailey]

Love is born with a dark and troubled face

When hope is dead and in a most unlikely place

Love is born,

Love is always born.

Love is born,

Love is always born.

This little ‘set’ wouldn’t be complete without a rousing Hallelujah chorus from the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement – it’s hard to know who to give credit to because groups of musicians gathered for “Sing for Freedom” workshops and wrote them together.  These songs were written to be a call for integration and confrontation of the status quo.  African-Americans in the 60s in the South were singing “Were gonna sit at the welcome table”, today we have to acknowledge that we’re already sitting at the welcome table, or the welcome picnic blanket… Again, you might be moved to call out a chorus of your own making! {e.g. We’re gonna share our songs and stories} By Samara’s hand now we will sing “they’re” as we aspirationally hold space and hope that those inside will one day come outside and join us at this table.

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

Feast on milk and honey one of these days (one of these days)

 

A-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit to-gether

Yes, a-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit together one of these days (hallelujah)

A-ll God’s child-ren gonna sit to-gether

All God’s children gonna sit together, one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Yes, they’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

Sit at the welcome table one of these days, (one of these days)

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

Thanks so much for making the time today to come here – to stand, to sing, in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something.

Let’s enjoy the picnic!

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Further rough notes for those interested in the background of how this picnic came about:

Last year, Mayra and I went to a conference called the Kinsler Institute and heard an amazing activist and speaker Bill Wylie-Kellerman doing a session on ‘Liturgy as Activism’.  He is the Minister of an Episcopal Church in Detroit where they’re experiencing some severe water cut offs and he described a Good Friday Stations of the Cross walk where they stood outside the water company, at the river, at block where there is only one house with people still living in it… there was something about singing or praying or standing in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something that made it more powerful.

We came back from that conference inspired to imagine what a Stations of the Cross walk  might look like for our own context here in Footscray – we went to the Palms Motel where they provide crisis accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, we went to the river and reflected on the impacts of climate change, we came here to the Maribyrnong detention centre … most of you will know of the Christian tradition of communion, sharing bread and wine together, this is done symbolically because Jesus says ‘I won’t eat this again with you until I see you in my Father’s kingdom’. In a church we have communion and we eat it as a reminder of that promise… well, we came here and compared what it must feel like for refugees who take a long and dangerous journey to get here, who expect to find shelter, and safety and hospitality and instead…  we passed around an empty cup and an empty plate as a symbol of the kind of hospitality people have experienced arriving here.

Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

We decided on Sunday 14 February we would hold a picnic lunch at the immigration dentention centre in Maribyrnong.

The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

Why here? A conversion of the New Pyrotechnic Section of the Explosives Factory Maribyrnong established in 1942 to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades – the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel first opened in 1966. Part of an ambitious assisted migration scheme that was implemented by the Commonwealth government in the late 1940s in order to increase Australia’s population. Until it was discontinued in 1981, this program saw thousands of British, European and Asian migrants start a new life in this country, temporarily accommodated in government hostels until they were able to buy or rent a house of their own. The Hostel has accommodated migrants from almost every national group that has arrived in Australia since World War II. Initially these were people from Britain and Europe but the later migrants arrived from Asia and South America and people escaping political upheavals in places such as Hungary, Chile and Vietnam. The hostel at various times also accommodated naval personnel, apprentices and evacuees from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Attempts by migrants to personalise their surrounding are apparent in a mural of windmills and tulips by Dutch migrants painted on the side of one of the surviving concrete bunker structures and a mural of an Asian scene that appears to have been painted by Vietnamese migrants on a section of wall of one of the ammunition stores located next to the Phillip Centre. This building also includes a number of paintings by children on its walls. Staff of the migrant centre also erected a large aviary attached to the former electrical substation that was part of the pyrotechnic works. (onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/35583/former-maribyrnong-migrant-hostel).  These site spaces are now occupied by Victoria University and in the last few years used predominantly for student accommodation.

The current, purpose-built, Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was opened in 1983, set up for people who have over-stayed their visas, had their visa cancelled, or who have been denied entry into the country through international airports and seaports.  Unlike the Broadmeadows IDC which has been home to families and children, Maribyrnong IDC has been home for mostly adult single male detainees identified as medium/high risk and therefore it is a site that has had higher security.

In June, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was passed.  The Citizenship Act has always said that if a foreign citizen or foreign national fights for a foreign country at war with Australia, they automatically cease to be an Australian citizen. Fair enough. The Bill adds three new categories of circumstances which will bring about the same result.

  1. Fighting for a terrorist organisation – still with you…
  2. Convictions for certain offences – if you’re a foreign citizen or national and you are convicted of any of a long list of criminal offences, your citizenship will automatically cease.
  3. Acting inconsistently with your allegiance to Australia – what does that even mean?

The protocol is that ASIO notices you’ve done a particular thing and tells the Immigration Minister who deports you. To do that, he has to accept that the factual allegations are correct. You have no right to be heard before he does so. You can contest it later but by this time you’re already on a plane.

(you can read more about this here if you’re interested: abc.net.au/news/2015-06-25/bradley-how-you-could-lose-your-citizenship/6572382)

At 30 December 2015, there were 1,792 people in held immigration detention facilities. Of these 1,792 people, around 18.6 per cent were from Iran, 10.2 per cent were from New Zealand, 8.0 per cent were from Sri Lanka, 6.5 per cent were from China and 6.3 per cent were from Vietnam. (Department of Immigration and Border Protection).

New immigration laws brought into effect back in December 2014 mean that anyone who has served a jail sentence of 12 months or more in Australia could be deported.  “We don’t want people who get into trouble, who have a criminal record, and those who fit into that category will have their visas cancelled and sent back to where they came from,” Australian senator Ian Macdonald said, saying that New Zealanders can’t expect special treatment.
“We love our cousins across the ditch but they must be subject to the same laws as everyone else.” [ The Australian, 29 Sept 2015]

It may be that New Zealanders thought they were being treated by the same laws as everyone else when they were convicted, served time and released just as an Australian might be.  That once they had observed due process and due punishment they were free to resume normal life, 5000 New Zealanders have done time in the last 10 years and these changes mean they can retrospectively be sent home.  I’m not trying to be permissive or whitewash anything these people have done. Clearly they are convicted criminals all. But surely we must ask whether it is fair to punish them now, again, a new law applied to an old crime?  These who might have family here, work here, barrack for an AFL team here… is it justifiable?  Is it justice?

With all these legislative changes, the population of the Maribyrnong IDC has housed both of these groups – convicted criminals whose visas are cancelled and are being sent back to where they came from side by side with refugees seeking asylum and safety.  I can’t find a number for 2015 but between 2010-2014 the number of “boat people” identified as legitimate refugees is over 90% in each year.  The treatment of the asylum seekers and the treatment of the criminals is the same. “Hard-line” centre managers from the prison system have been brought in – ex-prison guards who have a very different culture and mentality to officers who have been trained to guard asylum seekers amidst outbreaks of racial violence and hunger strikes .

People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are kept in the same place, and in many ways treated similarly, as criminals.  A friend of ours who has visited here – a refugee herself – has shared stories of the intimidation to herself of the conditions of entry; the boredom, the frustration, the fear, the hopelessness, the despair of those she met inside. She had her own complex needs but returned again and again not only to meet the hunger for Arabic home cooking, but for stories and news of life outside.

The latest development is this: all refugees in Maribyrnong are due to be moved to Broadmeadows which has recently had a high security upgrade. They were due to be moved already but it hasn’t happened yet – we have no way of knowing if this will occur prior to 14th of February.  This comes at a high cost to those at Broadmeadows IDC because along with the higher fence, more guards and greater security screening, comes heavier dehumanisation.

And, you know, some of the symbolism of our picnic is lost.

Or is it?

What a contrast over fifty years between a hostel and a prison, between encouraging people to move to Australia and border control to keep them out… but this place, this space, is where weapons were made that were used during World War II then offered a new start to some of the refugees of that conflict.  What has been used for building harm in this place has been transformed for building hope before… maybe we can build it again.

#LetThemStay

4 FEB – BREAKING: The High Court has just ruled in favour of the Government over the legality of offshore detention centres.

Right now, Peter Dutton is planning to deport 267 people seeking asylum – including 38 babies born right here in Australia – to Nauru and Manus Island: sites of scores of assaults, sexual assaults, self-harm and suicide attempts, and constant despair.

Love Makes a Way and a bunch of other refugee advocacy groups are campaigning together in response to the recent High Court decision that says that it is not illegal to send people off shore, making it more likely that the 267 on the mainland at the moment will be sent to Nauru. LMAW are inviting people to run their own non-arrestable actions in whatever way they like, using the slogan #LetThemStay.

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Let them in and let them stay.