After attending the Asylum Seekers Prayer Vigil last Friday evening, our family has realised that we know very little on some important social issues, particularly in regard to refugees and asylum seekers. As a family, we are seeking to remedy that, but firstly we need to get more information. Hubby recently attended an evening where some friends from our church are teaching Tamil refugees conversational English. He enjoyed it but realised that we need to find something closer to home (instead of a 45 minute drive away) and something that the whole family can particpate in. There are many social issues in our community and nation and world that we can respond to. This just happens to be the one issue that is most ‘in our face’ at the moment.
A lovely reader of my blog sent me this article that was taken from the Australian Prayer Network email. The Anglican Archbishops in Australia have called for more humane treatment of refugees, particularly children in detention. The Archbishops have released the following statement deploring the fact that recent figures suggest that around a thousand children are in Australian sponsored detention. The following paragraph highlights their concern.
“As leaders of the Anglican Church of Australia we wish to put on record our profound disquiet that at the end of February this year there were more than 950 children in detention facilities and alternative places of detention in Australia, and a further 177 children in offshore detention in Nauru. The average time people spend in detention is more than eight months. While our Federal Government has been drawing attention to the number of days without boat arrivals, this is another set of numbers that needs close scrutiny. These children are innocent victims of tragic circumstances. To use the words of the UN Charter on the rights of the child, detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time. As church leaders, we are not seeking to express a party political opinion on this matter. Within our Church there is grave disquiet about the asylum seeker policies of both major parties. It is our view that those who flee from desperate circumstances by boat should not be punished by prolonged detention whether in Australia, Nauru or ManusIsland. They are not the people smugglers. They are people made in the image of God, who deserve respect from all Australians, but especially our Government and its agencies. They come to Australia out of desperation, fleeing religious, ethnic or economic persecution. They seek asylum under the Refugee Convention that as a nation we have signed. Many will be found to be refugees, as the Government’s own statistics demonstrate. We call on the Australian Government to ensure that asylum seekers are treated humanely and respectfully by those charged with their care and protection, and that they are attended to in a timely manner.”
Our family’s compass is in God and what He says in the Bible. There is a passage in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is talking about when He comes again to judge and the method He will use. He repeats Himself as He wants to make it very clear what He expects from His followers. Verses 42 – 45 summarise it clearly.
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Jesus’ own commission is summed up in Luke 4 verses 18-19 which is a fulfillment of Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
If we are followers of Jesus, it follows that we commit to having the same principles He did, living life with the same intent as He did. That is a huge challenge and very easy to ignore or realise that it is too hard and become consumed in just daily life.
Where can we start as a family in regard to social issues and these passages in the Bible?
1. We will become better informed. We are researching the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Princess, our 10 year old will next week be doing this research as part of her home schooling study. I will also help Matey use the computer to find out more answers. He has many questions particularly about why Australia locks children up. We will then discuss it as a family. We may even have a debate to try to present both sides of the argument. Plus, a debate would help my children learn some public speaking skills, important for later in life. We will have hubby and I on opposite sides of the debate with a child on each side and look at how debates work plus learn some valuable basic public speaking skills.
2. We will look at how much time we have as a family. Can we afford to commit to something each week or is a monthly basis more manageable at this stage? How far would we need to travel because this has time implications as well? Do we want to do this as a family or is it just something for the adults? We love ‘doing’ ministry together as a family so we are all learning. Is there value in doing ‘one off’ practical projects? Whatever we do, it needs to be sustainable.
3. We will look at what we enjoy. Do we love writing letters or would we prefer personal contact? This will determine what style of involvement we will have. Impersonal letter writing could be to children in detention centres to encourage and befriend them or it could be to authorities to encourage justice. Do we want to have refugees over to our home and go to theirs, or would we want to meet in a public place? Do we want to develop friendships and really get to know people, or be more impersonal? Do we want to help them adjust to our society by teaching English or do we want to give handouts and keep them dependent on us?
4. Pray. We need to really seek God on what we can and should do that is appropriate, life giving and suitable. We need to ask God to open up opportunities that are appropriate for us and for the people we seek to assist.
Praying for refugees: If you would love to join a network specifically praying for the issues surrounding world-wide refugees, as well as our present response to them as a nation (in Australia), please contact Pia Horan on [email protected] She has taken the initiative under the spiritual covering of her local Pastor and would be delighted to hear from others who have a similar heart and concern for those who have been uprooted from their own nation due to circumstances beyond their control and are endeavouring to start a new life in a new nation.
I encourage you and your family to look at what social issues are in your ‘own backyard’. I would love to know how your family is involved in social issues and what works for your family situation.