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.
As Christians, why is this a response we should be getting behind? And what does it mean for those with lived experience of seeking asylum in Australia to see these events happen? In light of today’s call of the Federal Election for May 18, this is an important opportunity for us to demonstrate our support for peoples seeking asylum.
On Palm Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and celebrate God’s Kingdom drawing near, it’s traditionally been a day to reflect on victory, joy and peace. Since the 1970s in Australia, Palm Sunday has been a day Christians gather together at rallies drawing attention to social issues relating to peace. From the anti-nuclear themes of the 80s, to the anti-war protests of the early 2000s, and more recently to stand in solidarity with refugees across the world, Palm Sunday is now its own global movement for peace and justice.
This week, I caught up with my friend Salem, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan, an incredible advocate and activist, who also happens to have first-hand experience of living through the cruelty of our inhumane refugee policy. This Sunday, he’ll be one of the key speakers at the Perth rally, so I started our conversation by asking why he decided to speak at the event:
“I want to share my story. I belong to an ethnic minority group, which has a long history of persecution and suffering from war, target killing, discrimination and deprivation from basic human rights. I’m speaking at the Perth rally, because it’s such a good platform to raise our voice, to tell people that everyone is a human being, with the right to freedom. Freedom of life, freedom of expression, freedom to seek safety."
“Also, to make sure that people who are living in our communities know the situation for people seeking asylum in Australia; what challenges and difficulties these people go through in their lives, living in the situation that the Australian government’s policy forces them to.”
So what does this gathering of thousands of people across Australia coming together to call for justice for refugees mean to someone with lived experience of seeking safety on our shores?
“When you see so many people turn up on a Sunday to hear our stories and listen to us as fellow human beings; it gives you hope and optimism to be strong and hopeful for a better future, despite what we are living through now."
“It will empower us all to believe in justice and fairness and this loving community.”
These words I hope will be front and centre, as we consider our attendance at these rallies this Palm Sunday. In His teachings, Jesus calls us to imagine a different world, one of hope and justice and fairness - this weekend we can rally to bring this world into reality.
I finished our conversation by asking Salem what he would like people to think about as they attend a rally this weekend. His answer:
"Think about the values you believe in, the value of ‘humanity’ that we share."
“I want everyone who attends this important event to know that no matter how democratic Australia is, there are still some truly dreadful policies and actions happening to human beings who somehow happen to be a refugee from a different cultural background.”
This Palm Sunday, we have the opportunity to be part of a united call for justice, for freedom and for safety. Come and join us and witness to the coming of God’s kingdom and the promise of welcome and release for the poor, persecuted and mourning.
If you’re in Sydney, Brisbane or Perth we’ve got a group gathering with a Common Grace banner so you can join us at one of our meet-ups - more info on our website!
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Kate Leaney is the Team Lead for our Justice for People Seeking Asylum campaign.