Christmas, Australian Style

Pondering what would have happened if an Australian Prime Minister was Pharaoh when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the innocents,  I came up with this….

Mary and Jospeph0001

Here is the background story from the Bible, in Matthew 2: 13 – 18: 

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.  This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious,  and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem in that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,  weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;  she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”.  

Weeping God,
whose heart is pierced by the cry of the innocent:
receive into your arms the waste of our violence;
confront the powers of fear  by the confidence of love;
and help us stand with all creatures who bear the weight of cruelty and greed,
through Jesus Christ,  Rachel’s child.
Amen.

God of the refugees,
sharing the exile road with all who flee the violence that enslaves and kills:
As your Son sought sought asylum in a foreign land
make us ready to welcome the refugee
and receive from her a new language of life and hope;
through Jesus Christ, Rachel’s child.
Amen.

(From Prayers for an Inclusive Church, Steven Shakespeare)

 

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.

Merry Christmas pic

Dear Mr Morrison,

As promised in February, in the tradition of William Wilberforce, I have continued to write to you regularly even though I rarely receive a reply.   I also write consistently to my local Member of Parliament.  She always ends her responses with, “Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further queries regarding this or any other issue.”.  However, she has now requested that I focus solely on writing to you directly.  She says that you are best placed to address my concerns.  Therefore, although I suspect that you will not reciprocate, I have decided to write you this Christmas greeting.

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.

I wonder how you will send your Christmas greetings this year.  Will you choose cards emblazoned with words such as ‘peace’, ‘hope’ and ‘joy’?  I wonder how you will reconcile those words with the turmoil, hopelessness and despair inflicted on lives by the policies and legislation you have put in place.  Will you write a Christmas letter this year?  Perhaps it will be full of the news and happenings of your family life.  Perhaps it will contain photos of your wife and your two children, and detailed explanations of their activities and their achievements.  For those whose lives you have suspended in unending separation and statelessness with your Temporary Protection Visas, the exchange of letters will be one of the few experiences of family.  Their letters will be written with longing and sadness, instead of with celebration and pride.  Instead of outlining happy events, those letters are more likely to be filled with tales of the terror of ongoing persecution at one end, and of loneliness and desperation at the other.

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.  I hope your Christmas greetings are written with sincerity.

Will you wander the shopping centres this Christmas, enjoying the cheerful decorations and selecting gifts for those you love?  I read recently that a man on Manus Island only had the set of clothes he was wearing, and that he walked barefoot because he had no shoes.  His frequent requests for these basic items were refused.  Perhaps you could add some shoes and a shirt or two to your Christmas shopping list.  I also read that babies on Christmas Island have no safe or clean spaces to play or to learn to crawl.  Perhaps you could gift-wrap some floor rugs, playpens and toys and send them by express post.

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.  I hope your Christmas gifts are chosen with love.

Given the proclamation of Christian faith in your maiden Parliament speech, I expect that you will probably attend a Christmas service.  I wonder which carols will be performed, and if you will lift your voice to join with others singing the words.  Will you sing about a tender, mild infant sleeping in heavenly peace?  I wonder how that will resonate with you, given that you have just classified babies, born to asylum seekers, as ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’ and ‘transitory persons’ and are in the process of rounding them up to send them to Nauru.*  I can’t imagine there will be much sleeping in heavenly peace in Nauru amid reported instances of child abuse and the threat of Malaria.

I wonder which Scriptures will be read in church.  Perhaps you will hear the passage from Isaiah 61; the prophecy that the Messiah would be sent to the earth to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to bring freedom from darkness for the captives.  There are few more broken-hearted people than those who were forced to flee their homes, their loved ones and everything they hold dear, only to be punished by the use of arbitrary, indefinite detention.  There is little worse news than being told that new laws mean that you have no chance of ever being given the opportunity to start your life afresh in peace and safety, and that you could be sent back to torture or execution at any time.  Perhaps you will hear the passage from Matthew 2; the part where Mary and Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt to save Jesus from being slaughtered in Herod’s Bethlehem infanticide.  I pray that this will give you a greater understanding of why Hazara mothers put their unaccompanied minors in the hands of people smugglers to whisk them away from the reach of the Taliban.

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.  I hope the ancient Scriptures speak directly to your heart.

I wonder how you will celebrate Christmas Day.  Will your family meal be a traditional Christmas feast?  Or is a relaxed Australian barbeque more your style? Either way, there is bound to be an abundance of delicious food and festive drinks.  I wonder if the men in detention on Manus Island will be limited to 500mls of drinking water for the day as Amnesty International found when they visited one of the compounds.  I wonder if the same mouldy yoghurt will be offered to the children in detention on Nauru.

Will your table include candles to symbolise the light and hope that Jesus brought to the world that very first Christmas?  People’s hope of freedom and safety has been destroyed by your new legislation; legislation which allows you to return people to persecution in their homelands regardless of the protection obligations that are due to them under international law.  Australia’s humanitarian light has also been extinguished by your new legislation; legislation which allows Navy and Customs vessels to disregard maritime safety laws and to tow boats to any location at sea and leave them there, unsafe and ill equipped.

Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.  May your Christmas table be set with goodwill.

I don’t much feel like celebrating Christmas this year.  I carry a heavy sense of shame for what Australia has become.  My heart aches for my brothers and sisters in humanity, and for people who have become my very dear friends.  But I will choose to celebrate regardless. Jesus, whose birth we reflect on at Christmas, taught us to extend peace, hope, joy, love and light to our fellow humans.  While your new legislation gives you an enormous amount of power and control, it can never stop individual, decent people from doing that.

So, Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.

*News released on December 18 advises that Senator Ricky Muir and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have been able to prevent babies who were born in Australia before 4/12/14 from being sent to Nauru.  Babies born after that date, however, will still be transferred to Nauru with their families as per the new legislation.

The Bill of Horror

Convention mapAs well as the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas, which leave refugees in constant statelessness and fear of being returned to persecution, the Australian Minister for Immigration is proposing changes to the Migration Act which are utterly alarming.  The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014’ removes references to the UN Refugee Convention to allow Australia’s domestic law to ignore Australia’s obligations under international law. It also removes the ability of the High Court to challenge refugee and asylum seeker policy and operations.

The bill exempts vessels involved in Operation Sovereign Borders from the appropriate maritime laws. There will be nothing to stop fuel, food, water and safety devices from being removed from intercepted boats. The Government will have the power to send boats or individuals anywhere it chooses.  The bill removes the need for Australia to have a Memorandum of Understanding in place, or for the country to be a signatory to the Refugee Convention.  The bill will allow boats to be towed outside of Australian waters and left there without regard for the safety of passengers.

The bill proposes a fast track assessment process which removes access to the Refugee Review Tribunal. Fast turnaround processing was ruled illegal in the United Kingdom earlier this year due to an “unacceptable risk of unfairness”.  The bill seeks to change the definition of ‘refugee’ to allow the government to reject a refugee status application if it decides that there is a ‘safe area’ in the country of origin, or that the nation’s police force is ‘reasonably effective’.  This is nothing short of playing with people’s lives.  It will allow the Australian government to send back asylum seekers, regardless of whether they face a real chance of torture or execution on return.  What does Scott Morrison think happens to Hazara people when they are returned to Afghanistan or to Tamil people who are returned to Sri Lanka?  Does he really believe that members of the Taliban or Rajapaksa’s regime are unable to travel to target their victims?  If he had converted to Christianity in Iran, or spoken against the Iranian Government,  would he really trust the Iranian police force to protect him?

Children born in Australia, to asylum seekers who arrived by boat, will be classified as “transitory persons”, creating a new generation of stateless people, and giving them no access to permanent residency or citizenship.  Does Scott Morrison really believe that these babies pose a serious threat to Australia as we know it?  Or is his distain, even hatred, for asylum seekers so great that detaining innocent children indefinitely doesn’t satisfy his lust for vengeance;  does he feel the need to ensure that his punishments will continue for each of their lifetimes?

The ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014’ gives the Australian Government, under domestic law, the power to ignore international law and to engage in state-sanctioned human rights abuses. It will allow Australia to be complicit, even collaborative, in the persecution, torture and execution of innocent people. The Minister for Immigration will have absolute power, and his actions under Operation Sovereign Borders will not be brought to account by Australia’s justice system.  He will become untouchable. This sets a very dangerous precedent for Australian politics and law.

I see so many people ‘liking’ and sharing messages about Australia’s terrible mistreatment of asylum seekers, on social media.  I read the comments they write, pouring out their outrage and their grief.  Yet, when it comes to asking them to take the time to write to politicians to urge them to oppose this horrific bill, the passion and the anger appear to evaporate.  I for one, need to know that I have done everything in my power, and then some, to persuade the Senators to vote against this bill.  Will you join me in writing to them?  You don’t need to produce a perfectly crafted, eloquent letter; you just need to write!  A few lines will do.  If you are an Australian citizen, tell them that you cannot support politicians who sanction human rights abuses.  If you are an expat, tell them how horrified you are at what Australia has become while you have been away. Most of all, tell them to oppose this bill.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Here are the addresses you will need:

Here are the contact details for the cross bench Senators who will ultimately pass or reject the bill:

Senator Bob Day AO
Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices
100 King William Street
Adelaide SA 5000
senator.day@aph.gov.au

Senator Jacqui Lambie
29 Wilson Street
Burnie TAS 7320
senator.lambie@aph.gov.au

Senator Glenn Lazarus
PO Box 228
Brisbane QLD 4001
senator.lazarus@aph.gov.au

Senator David Leyonhjelm
PO Box 636
Drummoyne NSW 1470
senator.leyonhjelm@aph.gov.au

Senator John Madigan
17 Albert St
Ballarat Vic 3350
senator.madigan@aph.gov.au

Senator Ricky Muir
Level 4, Treasury Place
Melbourne VIC 3002
senator.muir@aph.gov.au

Senator Dio Wang
PO Box 6120
East Perth WA 6892
senator.wang@aph.gov.au

Senator Nick Xenophon
Level 2
31 Ebenezer Place
Adelaide SA 5000
senator.xenophon@aph.gov.au

Write to Clive Palmer too, as he will be instructing his PUP Senators:
Mr Clive Palmer MP
Palmer United Party
PO Box 1978
Sunshine Plaza QLD 4558

You’ll find the other Senators for your state here. You can search by state by using the map. Then click on their names for contact details.
http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Senators

Join the Combined Refugee Action Group’s Letter Blitz group on Facebook to access information and letter writing tips.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/805601422837175/

* Information on the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Bill was sourced in analyses undertaken by ChilOut Revived;   Refugee Council of Australia;  Human Rights Law Centre;  and Professor Mary Crock, Sydney University

Victimisation By The Book

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A four part strategy to systematically destroy a group of already victimised and traumatised people:

Part A

  1. Spread false information about these people and withhold the truth.
  2. Refer to them publically as illegal immigrants, queue-jumpers and economic migrants. Allow the public to expand on these words to include terms such as criminals, job-stealers, welfare-spongers and terrorists.
  3. Foster public opinion to believe that action needs to be taken against them.

Part B

  1. Round up and detain these already victimised and traumatised people, in remote places.
  2. Keep them in conditions which are condemned by the United Nations and Amnesty International.  Hold them there indefinitely, without avenue for appeal.
  3. Refer to them collectively as detainees and transferees.  Avoid using the term people.  Refer to them individually by numbers relating to the boats they arrived on, instead of by using their names.
  4. Tell them every day that they will never be adequately resettled and that they would be better off volunteering to return to the war, persecution and torture they risked their lives to flee.
  5. Dismiss and ignore the reports which condemn the conditions they are living in, and the treatment they are receiving.
  6. Remove all welfare and recreation services in order to intensify their misery and prevent any further ‘whistle-blowing’ by community service organisations.
  7. Dissolve the advisory group which would otherwise advise against taking the above action.

Part C

  1. Assess some of these already victimised and traumatised people as being  genuine refugees, and then incarcerate  them, without charge, anyway.
  2. Withhold information about why they are being held.
  3. Refuse them the opportunity to present their case for innocence.
  4. Hold them in detention indefinitely.  For years.  Until their children are born and are raised behind bars.  And then keep detaining them.
  5.  Ignore the Human Rights Commission  and High Court findings that this treatment is unlawful and unacceptable.
  6. Continue to detain them.
  7. Appoint a new Human Rights Commissioner who is infamous for his inflammatory remarks and a contempt for the Human Rights Commission to which he has been appointed, to ensure that no response will need to be made.

Part D

  1. Remove the opportunity for those of the already victimised and traumatised people, who are living in the community, to be settled there permanently.   Remind them that they will be sent back to the countries they have fled, whenever some completely detached official determines that it is ‘safe’ for them to return.
  2.  Separate them from the people they love the most.
  3. Deny them the right to work or to study.  Prevent them from keeping their minds active.  Prevent them from having a meaningful use for their time.  Prevent them from making a contribution to their new communities.  Refuse them an income and suspend them in a constant state of poverty.
  4. Subject them to a Code of Conduct which applies exclusively to them, and not to the rest of the population.
  5. Release their personal information to the law enforcers so that these already victimised and traumatised people can be watched.  Be poised ready to send them back into detention if they break the Code of Conduct by doing something vague like acting ‘inconsiderately’ or ‘disrespectfully’.  Or by doing something more tangible like failing to indicate before they change lanes while driving.

This is Australia, 2013.  Yet the echoes of Nazi Germany have grown so loud they have become deafening.