So some friends of mine here in Australia went and got themselves arrested recently.
First, some of them got arrested whilst conducting a prayer vigil in the Australian Immigration Minister’s office in Sydney. One of the group, Jarrod McKenna, proceeded to write a great piece about his motivation for this action. Today more Christian leaders and Pastors were arrested for praying in the office of the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister’s office in Perth. This was deliberate, planned action on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the world: asylum seekers. And in this case, specifically 1,138 children who are currently held in indefinite detention by the Australian Government.
Children. I want us to pause for a minute and consider this. We’re talking about children in their most formative years, locked away with no end to their detention in the foreseeable future, many with no chance of being resettled in Australia, and very few with parents accompanying them. These are people whose vulnerability is extreme, to say the least.
The Bible says a lot about vulnerable people. From the Old Testament laws through to the Epistles of the New Testament, we are exhorted to not forget those who do not have the ability to help themselves, or are without a voice to speak out. Micah exhorts us to do right, and to love mercy. James reminds us that pure religion means caring for widows and orphans. To be a Christian literally means to be a follower of Christ – to model our behaviour on the way he lived. And Jesus spent his time in ministry serving those who society ignored, shunned and marginalised. He chose to spend his time associating with people who would normally be on the outer of society. John reflects on Jesus’ way of living when he tells us not to merely say we love one another, but to prove it by acting on our words, just as Jesus gave his life for those he loved.
So today some Christians took all the words of the Bible and the actions of Jesus to heart by stepping out to highlight the plight of these children living in inhumane conditions – children that are reflecting their despair in their drawings, and in the stories that are coming forward of their heartbreaking situations. These Christian leaders and Pastors don’t claim to have all the answers, and they don’t need to. The fact is that the time has come for more Christians to enter the public debate about how we treat asylum seekers in Australia – we can figure out the best solution along the way, but currently the public narrative is controlled by politicians with vested interests that don’t extend to these 1,138 children. It’s time for that narrative to change. Time for a community to rally together and put the psychological and physical well-being of these people at the top of this agenda. This injustice will not end until a movement of people gathers around a common purpose and demands an end to the ill treatment of fellow human beings. The longer we stay silent, the longer it’ll be until justice is served.
You see, injustice didn’t die with the successes of the Civil Right movement under Dr. Martin Luther King. It didn’t take a holiday when Apartheid was disestablished, or end when slavery was abolished. But with each small step, with each victory, the flame of hope burns brighter, and suffering is eased. As Christians resolve to not read the Bible without comprehension, or simply go through the motions of a “spiritual” existence, the Kingdom of God is advanced here on earth.
So I want us to ask ourselves today: are we stirred by the plight of the defenseless children in detention in Australia? Are we concerned that this injustice is currently going unchallenged? What is the point at which words will become action? Whatever your circumstance today, I encourage you to take a leap and find a way to live out justice and mercy in your community.
And we can start by making a difference in the lives of these children.
Update: Check out this article by Jarrod McKenna for further insight into the Christian motivation for the current actions.