On Sunday I raised the issue of the ‘Nauru files’ – the recent release of 2,000 leaked reports of awful conditions on Nauru. It seems that refugees on Nauru, including and especially children, are being treated shamefully in what appears to be a systemic pattern of abuse and neglect. I do not believe we can be silent about this.
But how do we speak out as a community? It is important that we separate our personal opinion about border protection policies from the care for fellow human beings. In our church there will be different opinions about how to deal with the boats that smuggle refugees onto Australian shores. Some of you will have strong opinions about this and these opinions may well clash. That is ok, so long as we are keeping love for one another and love for God as the driving force behind our exchanges. As Paul writes in Romans 14, “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (v5) for “he … does so to the Lord”.
Whatever you think is the right way to deal with refugees arriving by boat, we cannot ignore those who tonight are already sitting in a detention centre in fear for their own safety. I believe we need to speak up. One way we can do this is be part of an Inter Church Council initiative to hold a candlelight vigil. The idea is to hold a prayer vigil for refugees in our church building, to which all the other churches in our area, as well as any general public, would be invited. We would gather not to debate policy but to pray for those who are in the camps at Nauru and Manus Islands.
This will happen on Saturday 27 August at 6:00pm in our church building. The theme will be “Close the camps”, and this theme will be written on the notice boards of all the churches in the ICC. Closing the camps does not necessarily mean bringing those refugees to Australia. It may mean settling them in other countries, or it may mean finding another solution. (Have a look at the Sydney Morning Herald for more information.) But it does mean ending the unjust treatment of those refugees.
I hope you will join me in this fight for justice and mercy. Come to the event if you can, pray for it leading up to the time, and pray for the refugees, that they may be given hope.