Archives for category: Social justice

The war shot the patriot from my heart
as if the curse of blood
were not enough.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
I thank my God for evenings and mornings
that rest quietly in the graves of the fallen,
the absence of war
and, yet, the presence of war
in the still-wet killing fields.

I thank my God for the peace
that punches our hearts
and never gives up its search
for a welcome,
who homes even into the midst of slaughter,
who pursues and teases the returned,
who shrinks from the decision-makers,
who feels left out of the rallies
– even those in its name –
but haunts those who have passed beyond the depths.

We will remember them
and we will cry tears of blood
at the sight of our sins,
at the lies that led us to hate,
at the creation of the ‘other’
and the mother’s children dropping from our country’s eyes.

May God build a shrine in my soul
large enough for every unmarked trauma,
with a white flag
and the charred remains of borders.

May God shower us with sorrow
for all fever to exploit,
to colonise,
to name superior,
and to ever be loyal
except to God’s truth.

O God, purge the hatred from amongst us,
let us retaliate by blessing.

Beat the drum against all evil,
most especially in my heart.

Lest we forget
the pain of every wound,
the glory lost to conquerors,
the sweat of every peace-maker:
Lest we forget.

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This is a tumultuous time of year. It is the pinnacle of many things and the culmination of others. For the circus group I run it was the final annual performance on Sunday night that brought the year to a head. But for children of the same age in Australia, the year is coming to a conclusion in the height of confusion, fear and trauma. They are the 44 children who are in danger of being sent to Nauru Detention Centre, after having escaped war or persecution in their home countries, fleeing by boat to Australia to seek asylum, being shifted around detention centres and seeing a young sibling being born into a cruel world. All as we try to prepare for the birth of Jesus, who came into just such a life of fear and uncertainty. Somewhere, hiding, ready to be born, is the source of love and welcome for these forgotten ones. But for 167 children already on Nauru, that pregnant glimmer of hope seems so far, far away.

I have been visiting refugees and asylum seekers in detention and in the community since 2007 and have made many friends. I have received so much from them, I have been inspired so much by them and I have wept so much for them. I have seen the options growing fewer, the chance of resettlement or reunion growing less possible and states of mind and body becoming desecrated. Phone calls from friends in mental health hospitals or scared of being sent back break my heart. I asked one 12-year-old girl in detention where home was for her. And she showed me a picture of piles of mutilated, naked, dead bodies from the war in her country. I can’t get that image out of my head.

This year, on visiting detention centres, I took a quote with me from St Ambrose: “If you know that anybody is hungry or sick, and you have any means at all and do not help, then you will have the responsibility for each one who dies, and for each little child who might be harmed and crippled for life.” Asylum seekers and refugees who had been in detention 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, even 7 years asked me, “And what can you do about this unfair situation?” At the time, I had no answer. But through prayer and reflection I felt a MORAL IMPERATIVE to act.

It was something that grew in me, quietly and persistently, over the last couple of years. I remember a prayer night last year where we read the call of Jeremiah. In that, I heard God calling me. I had no idea what that meant or what there was for me to do, but slowly part of the road became clearer at least. I had heard about Love Makes a Way through Facebook and a friend of mine had participated in an action in Adelaide. Before doing anything along this line, I knew it had to be OK with my community, the Sisters of Mercy, and the organisation with which I had worked in detention centres. Both were supportive and I knew God’s hand was firmly in it. I was very grateful also for the continuous support of my mother and sister in Kalangadoo.

The decision to become arrestable through a prayerful sit-in did not come lightly, however. By doing this, I knew I would risk having a criminal record and of not being able to return to visit detention centres. As the day for our action grew closer, my body reacted in a nervous way and so many questions about the process swirled in my head. When I met some of the others who would be involved the week before, a moment of clarity came when we had a few minutes of quiet together. I felt a sense of peace about it all, that God’s Spirit would be present throughout.

And so we went to Jamie Briggs MP’s office on the 10th of December 2014, at the same time as 53 religious leaders and members prepared for whatever might eventuate. Our continuous hope and prayer was that we would get an answer as to when the children on Nauru would be removed from detention, and a guarantee that no children would be sent offshore. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Sitting in Mr Briggs’s office with the others I found to be a very prayerful and powerful experience. I was glad that someone else could do the talking and we could do the praying. We had various prayers, songs and poems as the drama unfolded. Outside the office, other supporters sang and prayed too. Sometimes we joined in and sometimes we were different. A lovely moment was hearing Rabbi Shoshana chant a beautiful Jewish prayer or lament.

Then the police started to come in. Strangely enough they barely looked at us as one came in and out, then two came in and out to talk to the office staff. I guess they weren’t worried we were going to be going anywhere! Then we were each taken individually by officers to the very nearby police station. I was the second-to-last to leave and spent maybe 3 hours in the station, though I didn’t have my watch on. I was questioned standing in the hallway, as there wasn’t enough room for us all in offices. Then we waited for all the details to be taken, such as fingerprints and mug shots. As we were all completely new to the police system, this took much longer than usual. It gave us a lot of time to chat to the officers and each other. My officer was very polite and courteous, and we had some good conversation about family, Inverbrackie and the fact that he didn’t want to arrest us. It was funny to see his reaction when he learned, “I’ve arrested a nun!” I reassured him that he was just doing his job, as he seemed genuinely worried that he might be eternally punished.

We experienced nothing like the strip-searches or forcible removal of the Love Makes a Way people from other states that day. It was all quite comfortable, really. In fact, I felt that much greater discomfort would be endurable as we try to understand what it is like for innocent asylum seekers. Anyway, it was a blessing to be able to be positive and keep reinforcing our nonviolent, peaceful commitments.

After I got out it was rather surreal and I was by myself a fair bit. I used that time in the evening to catch up with things over the Internet and watch a video about the nonviolent protest movement of Negro Americans. I drove back to Port Augusta the next day, the fifth trip down and back from Adelaide (300kms) in just over 2 weeks. I think I was running on lots of adrenaline. That day I got a call from the office of Rowan Ramsey, my local MP, to have a visit from him while he was in town (Port Augusta). So I met him and his wife and had a respectful but seemingly fruitless conversation for 35 minutes at our house. While they conceded various problems for asylum seekers, they did not see the need to reduce the cruel treatment of them at this time.

In the next few days I felt quite drained and tired, though I had a big event to coordinate on Sunday night. I kept getting positive feedback from people about the Love Makes a Way action and knew that it had been important, part of something much bigger than myself. On Sunday night, we put on the Port Augusta Carols by Candlelight, which I coordinated, as well as preparing the circus performance, message and nativity scene throughout. Over 400 people came and it was a wonderful celebration. On reflection, the drama of the event of Jesus’ birth caused such a train of events as no one could have imagined. Who would have thought that a poor baby, in a humble stable from a backwater like Nazareth, would herald God’s salvation throughout humankind, the earth and all the universe itself? Some would have thought: No Way! But we hear the echo of God’s reply: Love Makes A Way!

Rubbish1

Next week is Anti-Poverty Week and today I was amazed to hear that Australia has come out at the very top of Credit Suisse’s world rich list on wealth per person for the past two years running. We have so much, yet we (at least, at the government level) share so little with the disadvantaged both in our own country and overseas. I do hear that personally, Australians are very generous towards charities, but there is a mentality that solving poverty is someone else’s business. Where now is the Christian call to “bring good news to the poor”? Can we also bring news of relief from poverty? I wrote this in 2009, finding that we are all culpable in one way or another.

Someone Else’s Saviour

When resigned corporations
think that money turns the world
we fear
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When rice-fields, mine-fields, grave-fields
bury freedom underground
we pray
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When eking out a living
leaves no room for them to speak
we dream
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When tangled in this messy net
of interdependent responsibility
we feel
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When real stories shock and shame us
and we look into their eyes
we sense
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When the echoes of their voices still
haunt us in the market
we guess
there’s enough to share it ’round.

When burnt-out lives leave ashes
on our doorsteps
we regret
there’s enough to share it ’round.

Well, it’s too late, mate,
but the researcher has found:
we know
there’s enough to share it ’round.

Today’s scripture readings were from Ezekiel 28:1-10 about God’s judgement on Tyre and Matthew 19:23-30 about the difficulty of the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. I wonder how we will be judged – this time, full of wars, wealth and power? I wrote this in 2010, based on the hymn ‘Be Thou my Vision’.

 

Our Vision

 

Be thou our judge, O future, our lord,

lay at our feet that fossil, the sword.

In thy great mercy lay flowers on our graves;

our follies were learnings, this memory it saves.

 

Be thou reminder, be thou regret,

for our short-sightedness, lest we forget.

Tell all our stories of power and greed;

in our destruction, lament the dead seed.

 

Shed thou your tears for what you have lost,

mourn our extravagance, tally the cost.

Pity our innocence, naive as we knew

only to pillage, plunder and hue.

 

Be thou outpouring, pour out your rain,

flood with your justice, then flourish again.

Remember our failings, our debt to your land,

but let us ask pardon and time’s healing hand.

Today the world seems so hopeless, so full of violence, war, trafficking and despair. The poems I wrote in 2011, but, sadly, the reasons for our cries continue…

 

The Log

The pen is mightier than the

souls tipped off the edge,

with a large tip and commission,

to buy their way out of heaven,

having asked Death’s permission

and taken the pledge.

The sword’s gone the way of the

fairytale with a happy ending

to be upstaged by the gun,

the tank and the smart bomb

that have a way of wending

into lives just begun.

And, about to turn a new

peace resolution they pause,

wondering if their souls are worth

the lines of peace and

all the mess this will cause

to the military-cut earth.

It’s as easy as one, two,

thank God it’s Friday night

and time to tally up the score

of hits and misses for the week –

does then the sword have the might

or does the pen have more?

 

Fairground

It would all make sense –

except for you.

Except for you and those like you,

maybe a few.

Or maybe I’m the exception

and it’s true

that life is really God’s deception –

cruelty, slavery, poverty, oppression –

and joy is a rare and luscious gift

in this sea of

depression.

Surely we make choices

from an even playing field

and God will simply yield

to our decision –

health, wealth and success –

they are all on the menu

and don’t we have provision

(by dint of birth)

to see them through?

Why, maybe you chose wrong

or had an unkempt thought

that wrought

this sickness deep inside

or you had some sins to hide

that got you to this state?

Though now it sounds like karma

and it’s too late

to show that past-life demon

your independent fate

if all you can do

is just suffer through

and plead for death’s welcome gate.

Well, maybe I’m dense,

but when I look at your life

and your sins compared to mine are less,

there is no sense,

in fact it’s quite a mess.

I’m at a loss

and all I can do

in this life-long suspense

is look towards Christ’s cross.

You were once strangers
in a strange land.
But never in Australia –
of course, you understand.
For never ‘cross our pristine shores
may strangers come and go
Unless we give them leave before
they must depart, you know.
We have a proud tradition
of settlers in this place
Who come from pure British stock –
the highest human race.
We’re forward-thinking democrats,
enlightened Christian roots;
Generous to the others,
but only when it suits.
There were perhaps some early folk
who camped but did not farm,
but they did not debate our claim
and brought on their own harm.
We treat this land the right way –
we profit and extract.
We’re literate and tidy
and by the law we act.
Of those who’re coming to us
we don’t know what they’ll do –
They wouldn’t handle freedom,
the ATM or modern loo.
We’ve far too many people
for this island nation state;
We can’t just let them pour on in
at this avalanching rate!
So someone’s got to stop them –
a Christian or Israelite
Remembering God’s words to us –
sure he didn’t get them right!

I was reading Deuteronomy 10:19 and the great irony of our situation in Australia hit me. These terrible things people are saying – and believing them!