Gay Marriage versus Mandatory Detention: I know this is really long but please read it. Someones life is at stake!

Neil Hart.  27 October 2011.

Finally…the churches unite..  Jesus prayer in John’s Gospel has been answered…”May they be one Father. As we are one… that the world may know that you sent me!”Im watching the Four Corners report on the effects of mandatory detention on refugees by Sarah Furgason put to air on 24 October 2011. I feel sick. At the Berrimah detention centre there are around 30 people on suicide watch at any one time. with instances of self harm far and above those figures. The NT Branch of the australian medical association AMA not generally known for their radical views stated through their president…

“ (it)is a shameful practice…it is medically harmful…and in the case of the young,  it is a form of child abuse.”

maybe im getting to be an old sook but i couldn’t help but tear up as i watched Senator Hansen -Young breakdown, unable to continue answering a question. She reflected on time she had just spent with a teenaged young woman who had been moved to the airport lodge detention centre from christmas island.  A young woman whose room was filled with sketches of nooses. hangings tombstones and graves. A young woman who has lost hope. A 17yo alone. Then i got this email from Get-up.

GET UP ARTICLE 26 October 2011 in the last three years, self harm incidents have jumped by 2600% to over 1,132.1 Even the chief public servant in charge of implementing mandatory detention is now urging the government to reconsider the policy, while the Greens are calling for a 30 day standard limit on detention after an Indian student was wrongfully detained for 18 months at Villawood detention centre. Last night’s Four Corners episode highlighted the absurdity and banal cruelty of a system that locks people away for legally seeking asylum. Many are refugees who have stood up to the Taliban in Afghanistan only to find themselves punished in Australia for having committed no crime; locked away for more than a year inside dark and hopeless places where self-harm, suicide attempts, heavy psychiatric medication and wanton despair have become the new normal. What’s worse – when a decision on their application is finally made, our officials often get it wrong. Almost 75% of visa protection refusals are ultimately overturned upon review.2 The simple reality is that the vast majority of people seeking asylum in Australia are genuine refugees but while they are treated like criminals, their mental and physical health suffers. The cost to our community, the harm done to real people who need our help, and the betrayal of our nation’s deepest values can no longer be ignored. Almost no other western country practices mandatory detention for asylum seekers – and after a decade of failed policy from Governments on both sides of the aisle, the dam is finally starting to break on this deeply inhumane and misguided policy. One of the worst aspects of detention is the reviled ‘Management Unit’. One story that makes us shudder: guards entered the room of an asylum seeker and ordered him to strip. He refused, because, apart from it being deeply humiliating for a Muslim man to be naked in front of others, his 7-year old daughter was in the room. The guards then beat him up, handcuffed him and took him to the “Management Unit,” a series of solitary confinement cells. Julian Burnside QC, having seen a video of a Management Unit cell, describes it like this: “there’s a cell about 3.5 metres square, with a mattress on the floor. There is no other furniture; the walls are bare. A doorway, with no door, leads into a tiny bathroom. The cell has no view outside but it is never dark. The occupant has nothing to read, no writing materials, no TV or radio; no company yet no privacy because a video camera observes and records everything, 24 hours a day. The detainee is kept in the cell 23.5 hours a day. For half an hour a day he is allowed into a small exercise area where he can see the sky.” With some detainees spending close to 2 years in detention and many suffering post traumatic stress, it’s no wonder that on our watch detainees are attempting suicide by hanging themselves from trees. As one interviewee said last night, having attempted and failed to commit suicide: “unfortunately even death didn’t want me.” – Sources — 1 Drawn from DIAC responses to Questions on Notice to the Joint Select Committee Into Australia’s Immigration Detention Network. See http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/immigration_detention_ctte/immigration_detention/submissions.htm 2 4 Corners: “Asylum”; 24 Oct 2011; http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2011/10/20/3344543.htm

and now….Damnit…I’m crying…not welling up this time. Full on crying. 27yo Daya Jayasakara is dead.  I started typing this entry after watching the 4 corners program on monday night. I received the Get UP email this morning and added some thoughts. Now, 1am Thursday 27 Oct 2011 I hear about Daya. He took his own life in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre. Daya has been in detention for 24 months. You know what sucks? what really SUCKS!? His genuine refugee status was granted months ago. It seems that ASIO were getting around to his security checks, sometime this decade. Well, Daya couldn’t wait anymore…It seemed death wanted him more than we did. I wish i knew you Daya. Im crying as if i did. Can it get any worse? sadly…yes it can. Was Daya a security risk if ASIO did not release him before now? Well….it seems….NO. Here is ASIO’s recent statement regarding security checks and detention.

“It is not a requirement under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 that irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs) remain in detention during the security assessment process. The detention of IMAs is managed by the Dept of Immigration and Citizenship, in accordance with Australian Government policy.” ASIO ANNUAL REPORT 2011

This says at least 2 things to me. Firstly, ASIO are saying “Not our fault!” . Secondly, obviously the detainees are not a high security risk according to ASIO and therefore their security assessments are not high priority. Well, ASIO, maybe Daya’s death IS still a little bit your fault….yeh?….maybe?….just a little bit?….. Hey reader… (I figure that there must be at least one of you.) Please…before you make judgements of the rights and wrongs of mandatary detention..watch the show…become informed. http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/844394By the way, its worth staying in iview for media watch’s demolition of the irresponsible and incorrect channel 7 today tonight story on asylum seekers that aired on 10 October.

Letters to the Government and Christian Unity?

 Its good to see that some people of influence have put pen to paper on the issue. St Vincent de Paul have publicly advocated for compassion for refugees. Then there is the recent open letter by Malcom Fraser and Patrick McGorry and others calling for an end to offshore processing. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-09/fraser-mcgorry-call-for-an-end-to-offshore-processing/3403002/?site=melbourne) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the christian churches could unite behind this common call for compassion. Wouldnt it be nice :)  to give the refugees, these people who have suffered much, not only access to freedom, housing, healthcare, education and community support but, as John the baptist suggested as our appropriate baptismal response… our second tunics as well. Ahhh…yes. wouldn’t it be nice, nice like the cadbury chocolate add…and just as fanciful. Coz, sadly,  at our conservative christian dinner tables we are much more likely to be seen feasting on the regurgitated channel 7 today tonight misinformation than the meat and 3 veges of the 4 corners account. and, unfortunately the lack of outcry from the pews is more than matched by the silence from the pulpits and councils of church leaders. But dont despair people. Jesus did NOT pray in vain. A miracle HAS happened. The churches HAVE FINALLY UNITED. They ARE one in mind and one in voice.  Take a look at this!

  The Presidents Page. 31 August 2011 RECOGNISING SAME SEX UNIONS Following the Federal Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage there has been some media attention. While the Church does not wish to disadvantage any members of society, the Lutheran Church continues to uphold the current legal definition of marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others’. I have written a personal letter to each of the House of Representatives and the Senate members. I have also added my name to a letter, along with other Church leaders around Australia, through the Committee for the Preservation of Marriage that has been sent to all federal members of the government encouraging them to maintain a Christian outlook on the definition of marriage and not to make any changes to the definition in the marriage act. Last week my name was linked to a report in the Australian newspaper regarding this letter. Many of the other District Presidents, and Chair of the Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions Dr Rob Pollnitz, have also been writing to our government officials on this issue. Mike Semmler, LCA President. 

There it is. A common letter of protest from the churches. But its not a letter protesting the depression, self harm and suicide that occur in our detention centres…its a letter protesting the possibility of gay marriage. Sigh…anyone else find that really, really sad? Just out of interest, I tried to find a copy of this letter.  Go Go GOOGLE! Hmmm. no letter. but some stuff here about the letter. Here’s the list of church leaders who have added their names to the letter. http://www.acl.org.au/2011/08/50-national-leaders-of-christian-churches-endorse-document-on-marriage/ Man…thats impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful and all inclusive list of churches on the one page…ever! The catholics and the anglicans who spilled each other’s blood over succeeding centuries in the UK the orthodox and the rest of us who haven’t really spoken to each other for about 1000 years now coz we cant agree whether the holy spirit proceeds from both the father and the son or just from the father. and…we cant even get it together on the right date to celebrate easter. The pentecostals and the rest of us on the speaking of tongues and baptism in the holy spirit as a necessary sign of the receipt of the holy Spirit. The salvation army and the rest of us coz they don’t even celebrate the sacraments. (can they really be a church if they don’t do that???) The Seventh day adventists who stubbornly stick to this outdated idea that the sabbath is actually on saturday. The catholics and the lutherans who haven’t been that close since Martin called his holiness “the antichrist” (why do those catholics get so upset by that…thin skinned, i say…) and the uniting church who entered into dialogue with the lutheran church a few years back to sort out their differences. At the conclusion of those talks those uniting people had the temerity to suggest that we actually …you know…unite!… never seen so much back peddling since the coyote followed the road runner over the edge of a cliff. (how DOES that blasted road runner do that upside down thing???) Ok….GO GO GOOGLE… Ahhh. Here we go an interview with with the chair of this all powerful, church uniting, Jesus’ prayer answering  “Committee for the Preservation of Marriage. “ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-24/interview-with-reverend-david-palmer-jones/2853256 hmmmm..I don’t think i agree with what he was saying..not sure that i would like him speaking for me? Does our various church leaders putting their names on a letter mean that the LCA have lined up behind this guy? Does it mean I have lined up behind him? Do they, does he, speak for me? No thanks. Just for the sake of fair presentation here is the balancing interview with Kerry Phelps who speaks on behalf of gay and lesbian families and in support of marriage equality. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-24/interview-with-kerryn-phelps/2853328 Interesting that they both claim the “good of the children” in their arguments. but…still no letter… Go Go GOOGLE! The Australian Christian Lobby seem to be prominent in the matter. I may be wrong but i think that “THE LOBBY” (they go by the acronym ACL but i think i prefer “THE LOBBY” ) might have started this whole formulation of a “committee for the preservation of marriage” and letter to parliament. So i checked out their website… OK. some stuff i agree with here.  But then i came across this… http://www.acl.org.au/2011/05/mr-acl-backs-government-on-asylum-seeker-swap/ HMMMMM… in view of what i’m feeling re Gillard Government and asylum seekers….i’m pretty sure i don’t want this group talking on my behalf… and this… http://www.acl.org.au/2011/09/mr-with-compassion-and-justice-both-parties-refugee-solutions-could-work/No compassion and justice here! Just a nice sounding support of the major parties’ rhetoric. Hmmmm. THE LOBBY gives support to mandatory detention? THE LOBBY gives support to what will prove our greatest social shame, to rank alongside the stolen generation. I definitely don’t want these people speaking for me! So. No letter. Never fear reader (there is at least ONE of you? isn’t there? “Down!” cursed Ego! go sit over their next to Insecurities!). I shall go on an intrepid quest. i shall go to the ends of the earth…seek in forgotten and forbidden places. Nothing will deter me until i find a copy of that amazing letter that dragged the churches out of silent separation, that miraculous letter that bought about the miracle of unity that jesus prayed for. Actually, ill probably just send an email to the church office and ask for a copy. Yeh…that sounds easier. Stay digitally tuned reader. By the way… no joke here. I intent to follow this up.

A Test Of Conscience

When i was younger, i wondered about all the common citizens in Germany who lived in towns neighboring the Nazi death camps. Normal people. Good people. People who raised their families and tried to be kind to their neighbors and went to church on Sundays. People like you and me. I wondered if I, like them, would have kept silent in the face of evil. I learnt about Australian government policy that failed to even recognise indigenous Australians as citizens right up into the 1960’s. I learnt about children forcibly taken from their families. Would i have kept silent? Just treated it as another troublesome political issue that the government cant get right. Well reader, here it is. My test. Your test. A great and obvious evil. Mandatory detention. Me? God forgive my closed lips. Im silent no longer!  It is to our shame that the churches stay silent on this issue and yet overcome theological constraint and difficulties and the weight of a thousand years of history to unite and send a letter to the parliament (on behalf of us all?) speaking against marriage equality for the GLTB community. Jesus prayed, “may they be one Father, as you and i are one, that the world may know that you sent me.” Jesus’ desire was that the churches united in love and justice might reflect the very nature of God. I wonder if he was thinking of an anti-gay letter when he prayed. Coz i know he was thinking about Daya Jayasakara RIP.