“Love Makes A Way,” their banners read. The people holding the banners are a movement of Christians fed up with the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia and are campaigning for change. Everyday people with families of their own have risked arrest to sit in the offices of politicians, staging non-violent protests to agitate for reform. They silently pray and urge compassion towards asylum seekers, lobbying for the release of the 789 children currently in detention.
Because they are followers of another refugee called Jesus.
Because 2010 Australian of the Year professor Patrick McGorry has said that our detention centres are “factories for producing mental illness”.
Because an Australian and New Zealand study of children who had been detained for more than one year revealed that 100 per cent suffered from some form of mental illness attributable to their detention.
Because while others shake their heads at the complexity of the situation, shrugging ambivalent shoulders, they know that, “Love Makes A Way”.
Please, Mr Abbott, can we take this four-word slogan as the battle cry of the nation? Consider it a fresh new response to each item in the too-hard basket. Let’s sharpen all policy decisions against this concept that ‘love makes a way’.
It’s all a bit pie-in-the-sky to believe that such a shift of gears would solve the ravages of social injustice felt on the fringes of Australia’s upper-middle class power stronghold. But it takes one person to inspire another, and another, and another. And where better to start than from the top.
There’s a verse in the Bible that goes like this: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) I call it the ‘love with balls’ verse because there’s no allowance for sitting on hands.
Here’s another: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7)
Love makes a way for broken families and marriages to be mended, for example. For people of all ethnicities to share a meal at the same table (even if clad in a burqa, heaven forbid). Love makes a way for the homeless and the penniless to become valued members of community.
I spoke with a mother to a (now adult) child with Down syndrome last week. Without a doubt, she is a ‘love makes a way’ champion.
In Australia, more than 95 per cent of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. Perhaps I should repeat that. Ninety-five per cent of children with Down syndrome are terminated in utero and, incidentally, the respected 2008 Victorian study revealed Australia to have the highest rate of Down syndrome abortions in the Western world (New Zealand 90 per cent, the US 92 per cent and the UK 93 per cent. Read an article on the topic here.)
My hero friend allowed love to make a way for her son when he was diagnosed with Down syndrome soon after his birth. It was tough. She cried a lot. She mourned what the condition would mean for her baby’s quality of life.
But 20 years later she says she wouldn’t reverse time.
“I was 47 when I had him and five months pregnant before I knew he was on board, too late for the tests,” she said. “I’m so glad I didn’t have the choice – I wouldn’t have wanted it to even enter my head.”
She pushed through her fears and allowed the great hulk that is the Maternal Instinct to protect, trust, hope and persevere. It took no time at all before love permeated her relationship with her son and gave back one hundredfold.
That’s the way with love.
As Martin Luther King Junior said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Clichéd as it may be, love is the answer.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday October 20, 2014.