The world seems to be beyond horrific at the moment. Civil wars in Nigeria, Sudan and Ukraine as well as fighting in the Middle East in Syria, Gaza and Iraq. Grossly inhumane treatment of ordinary people by militias, rebels, terrorists and governments.
Surely there is something for christians to learn from all this?
Two recent experiences led to this post, which takes up one of the issues I raised in The New Reformation.
Two weeks ago I attended the TEAR Conference in Sydney. TEAR Australia is a movement of Christians responding to the needs of poor communities around the world. One of its major emphases is raising the status and treatment of impoverished and mistreated women and girls around the world.
Then just last night I was speaking to a vibrant young christian woman who is committed to social justice and peace. She was concerned about conservative christian teaching on male headship and the submission of women, and how it might either prevent her marrying or blight a future marriage.
I couldn’t help seeing the connection, and the irony.
Desperate people fleeing persecution in their home countries make long journeys, overland and by boat, to reach the safe haven of Australia, hoping to be granted refugee status and residency. They don’t receive a welcome.
I have travelled a long journey in my thinking about asylum seekers, and it seems our country is on a similar journey.
9 of 12 members of our church who attended the vigil.
I have blogged before on the plight of refugees from war-torn or unstable countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran arriving in Australian waters by boat and Australia’s somewhat callous attitude to them – see links below this post.
Australia outsources some of its nastier policies to poor surrounding nations such as Papua New Guinea, which allows Australia to transfer detainees awaiting assessment of their claims (which will be very slow, quite possibly deliberately to discourage others) to a detention centre on Manus Island.
About 2 months ago Reza Barati, a 23 year old Iranian asylum seeker, was murdered in the Manus Island detention centre in circumstances which our Government either keeps secret, or doesn’t care to find out (so far at least).
More than anything else I think, this violent death of an apparently peaceful and innocent man in the prime of life, seems to have catalysed many Australians, including many christians, to protest that enough is enough and whatever the merits of the Government’s policy objectives on asylum seekers, the moral price of the present approach is too high.
On Easter Saturday, 125 people gathered in front of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office to pray and protest. I was there.
While we are on the subject of Australia’s attitude to refugees arriving by boat, here is a telling sketch by Aussie satirists John Clarke and Bryan Dawe. (Actually John comes from New Zealand, but works in Australia.)
For those not familiar with Aussie politics, the sketch presents hardline Australian Government Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, who is a christian, as a schoolboy before the headmaster.
It is very galling when non-believers (I presume) have more christian standards than self-confessed christians do.
These are difficult times. For many in our world, the difficulty is surviving poverty, or escaping from a murderous regime.
I live in Australia. I don’t live in poverty, and while our government has some very bad features, it isn’t a direct threat to my life. For me, some of the difficult issues are ethical.
Like whether my country’s government is pursuing a murderous policy towards others.