Palm Sunday Rally for Refugees

Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the powerful words she shared at the Palm Sunday rally in Canberra.

Palm Sunday has a long history as a day for challenging injustice. 2019 continued this trend with the Palm Sunday Rally for Refugees being held around the country.

I attended the Canberra Rally and stood amongst an incredibly diverse group of people to call for an end to indefinite detention for people seeking asylum. We sang together, chanted together and marched together. A Chorus of Women led a flash mob singing for freedom. Speakers, including Behrouz Boochani a refugee who has been in detention for five years on Manus, addressed the 3000 strong crowd.

Rev Katherine Rainger with Diana Abdel-Rahman OAM, president of Australian Muslim Voice, who spoke to the crowd about the need to stand with refugees and asylum seekers and against racism.

I spoke on behalf of the Faith-based working group. This is some of what I said:

The Aboriginal singer song-writer Kev Carmody concludes his powerful ballad “Cannot Buy My Soul” with a verse about Jesus entering Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. Carmody writes,

Jesus woke one morning, rode a donkey up through the gate.
He could see quite clearly, he was going to face his fate.
And the powers that be, could see that he, could not be bought or sold.
They took his life and liberty friend, but they could not buy his soul.

Likewise, Behrouz Boochani, is a man whose soul cannot be bought. And there are many other women and men like him who are caught up in this system that robs people of their lives and liberty.

In his book, “No Friend but the Mountains”, Behrouz uses courage, perseverance, exceptional writing and critical theory to challenge the oppressive systems that have stolen his liberty. I am thankful for his determination to challenge his incarceration and the cruel treatment of his fellow detainees. There has been a huge cost wrought on Behrouz and so many others. The mental, physical and spiritual cost of indefinite detention is simply not ok.

Behrouz Boochani addressing the crowd via a pre-recorded message on Manus Island.

We can and we must do better.

My job and your job is to take up the mantle that Behrouz has laid down – to bear witness to his testimony and to let it drive us into action. Together we must keep going. We have made progress with children on Nauru. We must continue to allow the names, faces and stories of those in detention to enter into our collective and individual consciousness so that it makes a different in our lives and in Australia.

We can and we must do better.

We are here today to say, ‘enough is enough’. Indefinite detention must end. We must find safe resettlement options for all those in detention. This is what unites us.

Rev Katherine Rainger addressing the crowd.

As Christians look towards the resurrection on Easter Sunday, we see a God who vindicates the powerless and the oppressed. A God who says death and death-dealing ways do not have the final say. A God who chooses restoration over vengeance. To see the world through Easter eyes is to live with hope for a just and compassionate future. This is something shared by all people of good will, no matter who they are.

So today, may each of us find the inspiration, courage, and strength we need to continue in our quest for justice and hope. To continue our quest to honour the humanity in each and every one of the people who are currently in detention in the prisons on Manus and Nauru.

We can and we must do better.

This morning before I went to the rally, I read Luke 19:39-40 where Jesus enters Jerusalem, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you, he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

This Easter as disciples of Jesus let us continue to join with all creation in welcoming the reign of God where justice and peace are in abundance.

Rev Katherine Rainger is the Assistant Priest at Holy Covenant Anglican Church in Canberra and a PhD Candidate with the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. 

People Seeking Asylum