6 March 2022
Called to reflect peace
The Religious Discrimination Bill – now thankfully pulled – has damaged the Church and Christians. On listening to the deep feelings of members of Parliament, and reading articles in the media, it is clear that the stance of certain Christian groups is seen as discriminatory and judgemental. They are advocating an agenda which causes vulnerable people to feel persecuted. This is so contrary to the gospel of Christ. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whom we honour at this time, advocated the concept of “ubuntu”, a way of living which celebrates our diverse interdependence and reflects the wholeness or the “shalom” that comes through the sacrificial love of God seen in Jesus. Jesus Christ calls his followers to live and advocate in such a way that the good news of God’s love is attractive to all.
Bishop Ian Palmer
Not terra nullius
February’s Melbourne Anglican includes a number of references to the violent dispossession of our Aboriginal people and its ongoing consequences for First Nations peoples.
This reminded me of a comment by Captain Cook reported in Rob Mundle’s book Cook, written shortly after the Endeavour was almost wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Captain Cook recorded that the “natives of New Holland are in reality far happier than Europeans” and “live in tranquillity which is not disturbed by the inequality of condition”.
This happy state was abolished by the arrival of the colonisers. The Reverend Dr Peter Carolane observes in TMA that colonisation was a form of systemic injustice, and that it is a fantasy to think that it and its effects could be reversed.
Your February issue carries a call for Australia to keep repenting injustices past and present. Christians in Australia need to understand their history and the events of the past, and the need to learn and reflect on ways to remedy the results of earlier mistakes and injustice. Australia was not terra nullius!
We need change now
Church attendance in Australia has fallen away consistently over the past forty years, with one factor being that the leadership and worshippers have not changed with the times. Church fellowships have stayed the same, they lack life, purpose, are not challenging and have retained some doubtful doctrines. These organizations are asset rich but people poor. Millions of dollars are held dormant in unused church buildings, manses, tennis courts, playgrounds and kindergartens, and vacant land, yet appeals are made frequently for donations.
For the church to stop dying, and in many places, it is top-heavy, it needs to change as soon as possible. The people need to do business with God, be definite in their life of godliness and lovingly accept Jesus as their savior. Be encouraged, blessing awaits you.
A prayer for compassion
Now that Novak Djokovic has been sent home and the Australian Open is over, the news media has forgotten about the 35 refugees who have been locked in the Park Hotel for two years. But the suffering of these people has not gone away, even if we ignore it.
Many of them came to Australia under the short-lived Medevac legislation for urgent medical treatment which was not available in the offshore detention centres where they had been held for seven years. Most have still not received that treatment, instead they have been locked up and forgotten. These innocent people, and thousands of other refugees and asylum seekers, have not even been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime yet we punish them in ways which would not be tolerated for our worst criminals.
If there is one theme running through the Bible almost from beginning to end, it is God’s command that we should show compassion to those in need and welcome strangers in our land. This is summed up in Jesus’ two Great Commandments: we should love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.
Djokovic was held in detention for just four days and he described it as “torture”. What must it be like to be there for nine years with no prospect of release? As we approach a federal election, I pray that we will put compassion ahead of cruelty, generosity ahead of selfishness, and love ahead of hate.