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.
I took my nephew to the playground today.
Like most two-year-olds, it is one of his favourite places. Today was the first time he was brave enough to go down the slippery dip, but he needed me to hold his hand. He got scared on the motorbike rocker, and had to swap to the smaller bunny version. He got stuck half-way up a ladder, but didn’t even have a chance to cry before I lifted him down.
I couldn’t help thinking that this was the most scared and unhappy a little child should ever be, and yet our government has toddlers like him in indefinite detention on Nauru. I would do anything to prevent my nephew from feeling pain or being scared, and I know that the families of the children on Nauru must feel the same. As a Christian, I believe it is my responsibility to speak up for justice, mercy and compassion, whenever and wherever I can.
Two weeks ago, Common Grace asked if my whole church could get involved in this kind of action, and so we did. During our Sunday gathering, we all signed our names to a letter to our local MP, asking her to take action to get children off Nauru. During the week we hand-delivered it to her office. We weren’t alone, and over 67 other churches and faith communities around Australia have also signed up to deliver similar letters to their local representatives.
This action was so easy for us to undertake. Common Grace gave us everything we needed, including the wording for the letter and instructions for how to deliver it. It felt good taking action as a group, as though our collective voice was louder than our individual voices could have been.
The last week has seen a lot of media attention on the fact that many of the children have been brought from Nauru to receive medical treatment in Australia. And just today, we've heard that the government plans to get all children off Nauru by the end of the year. This is an answer to prayer, but we cannot let up our advocacy now. We must call for all men, women and children detained on Manus and Nauru to be brought to safety immediately.
It’s time to amplify our voices and increase taking action, we need our communities to continue to send the message to our government that all children and their families should be immediately brought to safety from Nauru.
I pray for a future in which the children of people seeking asylum spend their time in playgrounds, not detention centres. We can all be a part of the answer to that prayer.
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Rosalie is a Common Grace supporter from Activate Church in Adelaide.