Ebony Birchall, lawyer and member of our Justice for People Seeking Asylum team, calls us to raise our voices for the humane treatment of people seeking safety this #RefugeeWeek.
My grandparents worked for the Salvation army, my mother worked for the churches of Christ, my father worked with alcoholics. My family has a strong history with the church and extending God’s mercy and love. For some reason it occasionally surprises me that I have begun an internship in advocacy. However whenever I think about this tradition in my family - it surprises me less.
I was born in Adelaide and I have a sister and brother. Both of whom have also be very inspirational to me to be someone that works to bring God's justice to the world. Together the three of us grew up hearing and seeing the important work the church can do for the world. We saw it in acts of kindness from our parents for even complete strangers. We saw it in the youth group leaders we had at church in high school. We saw it in the simple things that gave people a home and welcomed others in.
However the passion for advocacy and social justice work has not always been forefront in my life. Science was my interest throughout high school, and I was enrolled in a Chemical Engineering degree after completing my HSC. After school I decided I wanted to be a pastor. I was excited to help people discover the relationship with God that had changed my life so much. And while this is still true it was my time at bible college that set me back on the path towards social justice work that was began an a child.
The beginning of this was over lunch in my first few weeks there. Some of the students had organized a lecturer to speak from the Psalms about God’s heard for justice. To see from my peers, hear from my lecturers and to read from the Scriptures about the biblical demand for justice was very convicting. At the time it was not something that was part of my spiritual diet. It was not something that was on the tip of my tongue as a Christian. This soon changed though through many stories told to me from the Scriptures.
Hannah from the book of Samuel showed God’s love for those in society that everyone dismissed as worthless. Stories of a sex worker called Rahab in Joshua who is that are eventually given pride of place in the lineage of Jesus in the book of Luke. Stories that tell of God showing mercy and grace to people that do not deserve it, and stories of God’s anger when those same people do not show even the bare minimum of justice to the vulnerable and broken in their own country. Including the stranger and foreigner. And finally the prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” from the mouth of Jesus which showed me how the church must be an agent of compassion and provision for all people; to show grace that is common to all.
The prayer of give us this day our daily bread is a profoundly important one for justice in this world. Of course being a line in the Lord’s Prayer with the Bible Society, Common Grace explored this in the lead up to Easter. John Dickson spoke of the compassion of this prayer that Jesus was teaching us. That the prayer of, “Give US OUR daily bread,” meant this was a prayer for the whole world. We pray for all people, all God’s children and creatures that they would have daily bread. We pray they would be cared for with the bare minimum and the basic necessities of life.
This is the prayer I want to act out with my life. That all people would have daily bread. It is the call to discipleship that I have heard and am compelled to act upon. For me this means standing up for the rights of asylum seekers. To demand that they receive the same mercy and grace that has been afforded me. For I have not received all I have because God loves me more than them. I have this place of “white male privilege” because I happened to be born to the people and in the place that I was. The injustice of this world means I was given an abundance, and now the justice of the Kingdom means I must extend that abundance to those who have too little. The hope is that neither would have too little or too much, but that all would have enough. It is through this work with Common Grace that I hope the Lord's Prayer would become true for asylum seekers. That this prayer of churches throughout Australia would become reality for asylum seekers; that they would receive their daily bread.
I look forward to partnering with you in this work.