Fr Andrew’s speech at the ‘Five Years to Many’ rally at Wheeler Place, Newcastle, on the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2018.
Sisters, brothers, I acknowledge the Awabakal people as the traditional owners of this land, and pay respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.
Five years. Brothers, sisters, five years is a long, long time.
For five years, innocent men, women and children have been locked up on Manus Island and Nauru. For five years, the hopes of thousands who legally came to us seeking freedom and liberation from war, violence and oppression have instead been imprisoned and abused in our name. Twelve men have lost their lives living in the hell hole we call Manus. This is Australia in 2018.
Five years is a long time.
In those 5 years, my youngest daughter has learnt to crawl, walk, talk, read and write, and yet children not much older than her have spent half their lives in detention, with so little hope and in such despair, that they have come to believe taking their own life would be a better decision than spending another day on Manus or Nauru.
Sisters and Brothers, this is Australia in 2018. We might ask how we came to this point in our history? How did our moral compass not only lose its direction, but get lost altogether. How did we get to the point in our nations history where the cruelty of Donald Trump’s immigration policies take their inspiration from Australia’s?
What has happened the soul of our nation?
When we ask those questions, our natural response might be to lose hope.
If this is Australia in 2018 – brothers and sisters, I appeal to you today, do not lose hope. We must fight for compassion, we must fight for justice, and we must fight for the soul of our nation.
Let us who are free be inspired by the hope and resilience of those imprisoned on Manus and Nauru, like award winning journalist and author Behrooz Bouchani,
and in our hope and determination to change a system, we will strengthen their hope.
Let us reclaim our sense of shared humanity. In the Bantu culture of Southern Africa there is a word for that – Ubuntu. Ubuntu recognises that I am human because you are human. And if you are denied your humanity, I cannot be fully human.
The brown-skinned Palestinian Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth whom I follow,
the one who was nailed to a cross for claiming God’s love was for all people,
he said that “whatever you do as a nation” to the least of these, to the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the refugee, the hungry, the thirsty, to the homeless, the addict, the sick, the elderly, the infants, the vulnerable, whatever you do to them, you do to me.”
So every time we lock up another refugee or asylum seeker on Manus Island or Nauru we harm the heart of God, and for every day we do not process and release those already there who have been found to be genuine refugees and asylum seekers, whether released to this country or New Zealand or the United States, we as a nation are harming the heart of God.
Sisters and brothers, in 2018, this is Australia, We must stop this evil being perpetrated in our name. We as voters can, and must, demand that our leaders recognise the sacredness of our shared humanity, demand that we as a country reclaim our compassion for the least of these who come to us for help. And we must not lose hope.
Evacuate Manus. Evacuate Nauru