As we move from Refugee Week to NAIDOC week, it’s fitting that we listen to Academics Mark Brett and Naomi Wolfe as they explore the roles of guest and host in the Australian context. This piece is an edited excerpt from a NAIITS Conference paper. The full paper will be published in the NAIITS Journal later in the year.
Like you, I have watched the scenes from Manus and can't believe what is happening.
Watching at First Home Project has given me new eyes. Daniel* who himself is a Christian refugee watched the news with me pointing to people and started telling me their names.
"That's Adam*, he's a good guy, very nice, he loves the Lord Jesus too."
Adam is one of the 816 vulnerable men have been abandoned on Manus Island and placed at great risk without any material support or protection as the Manus Island detention centre is closed.
These fathers, sons, friends and neighbours have heroically survived persecution in their home countries, risking all they have in the hope that they may find safety and welcome in Australia. But like my friend Daniel experienced for four years, their futures have been frozen in indefinite detention, locked up, mistreated, and subject to unfathomable neglect.
If you are like me you are asking, "Lord, where are you in this?" I want to share with you the answer I heard in prayer:
‘Whatever you did to the least of these, that was me. You were doing it to me.’
Our Lord's words in Matthew 25 – that fell fresh on my heart in prayer – mean Christ's access to food, water, electricity and medicine has been cut off in an attempt to coerce him away from the detention centre. With no more running water, Christ – camouflaged as the stranger – has been forced to collect rainwater in bins. Just like Mary and Joseph on their donkey seeking safety in Egypt, so too these men have come looking for refuge and safety.
Yet Australia’s shores haven't seen Christ in the stranger. They haven't seen the eyes of Daniel. They haven't seen through the eyes of faith. They haven't seen through the eyes of compassion.
I see Christ in at Manus.
I see God's heart breaking.
My heart is breaking.
Three years ago, the Common Grace movement launched out of a catalytic moment where the Australian Government was closing our borders to those most vulnerable – people seeking safety here in Australia. Since then all of us have sought to speak up for those most vulnerable, to stand with those left behind, to find ourselves sitting with the marginalised – where Christ sat.
It’s time to #BringThemHere.
Instead of abandonment, we will call for welcome. Join me. Call our politicians and call for these men to be brought safely to Australia.
This may be your first time calling our political representatives. If so, you can use the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s guide on how to call our politicians about this issue.
And if you have financial capacity, please donate to the organisations who are providing emergency food and water, and supporting the men with phone credit, material goods and financial assistance accessing medications.
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’
May we see through Daniel's eyes.
May we see through the eyes of faith.
May we see Christ in these men.
Don't feel helpless. There's too much to do. Let's pray, let's organise, let's live God's love and call for an end to this horror.
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Common Grace supporter Jarrod McKenna leads the First Home Project in Perth, providing accommodation for refugee families in the suburbs of Perth.
*Names have been changed for privacy and safety