Keeping the Faith

The Four-Word Statement That Australia Needs as its Motto

Launceston 'Love Makes a Way' campaigners. Source: Love Makes a Way.

Launceston ‘Love Makes a Way’ campaigners. Source: Love Makes A Way.

“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.

Why?

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”.

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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)

Always.

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.

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4 Comments

  1. mickovich says

    Claire, thanks for a refreshing read and certainly for your well-placed compassion for refugees. Yes, Jesus was one, as was Einstein 🙂

    What I am going to write about is about my challenging journey on Australian Asylum seekers, particularly those who attempt to reach Australia by boat. In 2009 my position was unequivocal to both of our Australian major political parties: ‘A plague on both your houses’. Since then, however, I have come to realise that sometimes love means not always saying ‘yes’. I have kids, lots of people do. One thing many learn as parents is that you are not showing love by always saying yes. If I feed my children ice cream for every meal, they may well be dead by 20 from diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

    Let me be clear, refugees are not to be treated as children. Desperate people do desperate things. I support the massive increase in Australia’s embarrassingly small refugee intake. I also support a large, multicultural population in our nation as being vital and helpful to its future. However, it has become increasingly clear from investigation into the demographics of people who have arrived by boat in the last decade that what is in place is a system where those with the money are able to enter Australia and be heard, those without do not. In addition, many travel through many nations that they are freely accepted in but choose Australia.

    What changed my view was my heart for genuine, poor, refugees. Those in Darfour, those in Myanmar (where my closest friends have worked with the UN) and those in Somalian camps (where a close mutual friend of ours once served). What also changed my heart was meeting and befriending Iranian refugees, who were actually economic migrants and, as it turned out, under no genuine persecution. Now that is confronting. Both were educated, doing very well financially, had started a family here and were in the process of now moving family over. I love these people but felt that something was very wrong. Australia was a dream for them, but they wanted it now, could afford it and saw an opportunity, seizing it.

    About 4% of those in the last decade attempting the trip died at sea. There is no way to describe this but tragic. I don’t rave on about ‘queue jumping’ and nonsense like that. Nor do I think that ‘taking everyone’ is either showing love nor is sensible by any stretch.

    My suggestion to the federal government was:

    a) To reintroduce a limited visa with a ‘sunset period’ of 5 years to take as many genuine refugees as we can process. At the conclusion, the safety of the refugee in the country of original emigration can be re-assessed and extended if necessary or the people put into the general system of organised immigration from their original country.
    b) To allow such refugees to live and work in places like Tasmania, our regional centres and other places where labour shortages exist. Keeping refugees limited in outer suburbs in major capitals where most of the ridiculous dog-whistling to racists is done and many politicians feed into, reduces ‘fuel’ for this predominantly racist fire.
    c) To allow such refugees to have complete access to education, health services and legal services but not access to welfare. Ideally to be sponsored by charities, churches, farmers or families where community can support these hurt and vulnerable people.
    d) To only accept those with identity documents. This reduces the product offered when unknown people cast their identities away. My communication with the Intelligence community clearly changed my mind here. This is a genuine risk to security when we lack reliable knowledge about those arriving by boat. The policy I suggested removes that possibility.

    Finally, I do have a heart for children in detention, agreeing that these ought to be immediately released on arrangements detailed above. I share the faith that you seem to and believe in love just as much. Jesus loved. Definitely. He also challenged, occasionally sent people away, sometimes gave people disappointing answers to their requests and always, always, knew that the bigger picture was just as important as the individual.

    It was a painful journey for me to make to thoroughly believe in love, respect life above all and to undo the cycle which was enriching organised crime in South East Asia making unfair advantage to the lying wealthy over the honest poor in the worst refugee camps in the world. However, Australia has a unique problem being the only island continent, among the richest nations and one of the most dangerous to traffic people into. Love needs common sense. Philios love needs Agape love, hand in hand. I am a late convert to the reality that we need tight borders but could do with wider arms to welcome the truly poor and vulnerable around the world.

  2. Great stuff, thanks Clare for your wonderful article and support. Is there a link to where it appeared in the Examiner? Much peace. Simon Reeves (LMAW Victoria)

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