The recent death of a man on Manus Island who had sought asylum in Australia, points to the unacceptable mistreatment of all people who are turned away from our shores.
I’ve spent the last couple of days reflecting on our government’s Budget 2017 and trying to figure out what to make of it. With friends right across the political spectrum, I hear completely polar opposite responses from people I know to be loving, generous and others-focused Christians. Polar opposite responses. Which is rather frustrating in these echo chamber days when my social media world is supposed to provide me with all the absolute certainties I could ever want.
I’m also someone who, when God was designing me, was apparently given any extra scoop of ‘love of words’ and only a small pinch of ‘love of numbers’. The mere memory of high school maths makes me feel panicked and overwhelmed, let alone the kind of numbers that get thrown around in national budgets. So, needless to say, I can find budget analysis talk more than a little befuddling.
Nonetheless, I’ve been reading all the budget stuff I can find. And there’s been some good stuff in it all! The National Disability Insurance Scheme, for example. Or, as our DFV team has reported, help for people who are faced with the horror of domestic and family violence (albeit much more still needed). And as I've read I've begun to feel hopeful, thinking "Finally there are indications that our government is seeing the intrinsic value of every human!"
But it's not every human, is it? There’s also a bunch of vulnerable humans who lost out in this year’s budget spending and their loss says something, too.
The two groups that really make my heart ache are people seeking asylum in Australia and the global poor whose lives literally depend on Australian Aid. And I can't help but notice that both groups are people who weren't born here in Australia and who some people would say aren’t “us”.
Reflecting on this glaring omission has me wondering whether we have awakened to the value of every human being after all. Maybe we’ve more just awakened to that hardship that is faced by people who we know and who we know we could be.
I mean, the Treasurer, regardless what his party allegiances and personal convictions are or aren’t, really is the messenger here. He’s the guy delivering the Government’s decisions on where to best manage our country’s money. He represents a government that was voted into power by ordinary Australians, and that at all times is thinking about the best way to get voted back into power next election.
So there’s good reason for us, as Australians, to consider Budget 2017 as a mirror that reflects back to us what most Australians care about and will tolerate. And if that's the case... well the ugly reality is that our ability to care about someone - to recognise the image of Christ in every human and respond generously – is capped to those that we see with our own eyes and touch with our own hands.
I’ve guess I've been thinking along these lines for a while now. I keep noticing how people only really need to make friends with one person who is seeking asylum or is a refugee and their whole perspective changes. I’ve got friends who have become mobilised to see justice for asylum seekers because they’ve been to Syria and met with people fleeing their homelands. They've seen them and touched them and it has provoked them to action.
Of course I recognise the same tendency in myself. I've found myself working harder towards justice for women facing domestic abuse after a conversation where a friend revealed her experiences to me. And I've got a million similar examples from my own life and the lives of my friends and family. It seems to be something all of us humans are prone to. The old "out of sight, out of mind" rings truer than we'd like it to.
It's a bit like we're all "doubting Thomases," isn't it? Like we’re telling Jesus “I’m going to need to put my hand in the gaping wound of where you are hurting before I believe”. Jesus is gracious, of course, but replies “It would have been better if you had believed without needing to see it with your own eyes.”
Poor old Thomas. I relate to him. I'm low on belief myself. Often. Even when the Bible makes something blatantly clear, I can find myself holding Jesus at bay, wanting to touch and see with my human eyes and hands before I will listen to what he wants me to hear.
And I can’t help but wonder whether Jesus would say the same thing to us Aussies, as the mirror of Budget 2017 reflects back at us, and exposes our national deficit of care for those who we don't see and touch. Whether he’d tell us that it would be better if we would just believe his words about those people whose hurt we don’t feel with our own hands and see with our own eyes.
I think he would, so I’m going to try to. I’m going to get on my knees and ask him to help me to care about those who I don’t see and touch. Who I don’t understand. And I’m going to keep asking my Government to do the same, one email, letter, facebook post and vote at a time.