Bishop Godfrey Fryar
Asylum Seekers in Australia
Crowds can be dangerous things, and an appeal to the baser motivation of the masses, particularly in electoral cycles is too good to resist for many aspiring politicians. For many years now even the mainstream parties in Australia, in seeking to gain or retain office, have at times sought causes that would appeal to the majority of voters. Causes grounded on fear, greed, or xenophobia, have installed many a new government of both varieties.
I would like to strike a note of caution with regard to some recent developments. With many changes in laws regarding asylum seekers in the last year, there is a group of people who are currently living in no man's land, and that terrible place might be in your street or even next door!
This is a group of people numbering around 21,000 who entered this country by boat and were sent from Christmas Island into the mainland community. This group of people are now living among us on Bridging Visas, but without work or study rights.
As policies have hardened, this group in particular have no idea what will happen to them, it appears that they will not receive permanent residency, and at best may be granted Temporary Protection Visas.
Now you could easily say that they should not have come to Australia in such an irregular way in the first place. That is a well-known point of view and technically it is correct under Australian law, even if open to question under our international obligations. Such a journey is certainly highly dangerous and not worth the risk.
The main point however is that they are here, and most live in terror of the prospect of being returned to their homeland, because of belonging to a particular ethnic group, or holding certain religious or political views at variance with the majority in their place of origin.
Those in power, of course, know that many of "the crowd" across Australia don't want to see any asylum seekers on our shores at all, but numbers don't necessarily indicate an opinion is right.
In the end Jesus fell victim to the crowd, and those who stood behind them, and he ended paying with his life.
Surely compassion should have the last word, especially for those 21,000 people caught in this terrible situation.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Godfrey Fryar
Ministry with children.
Each time I read Psalm 127, I am struck by the words "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord".
We tend to think of heritage in terms of what has gone before us. We look at the heritage of our families and what has been passed down to us through the generations. We think of Australia with our inheritance of what has come down to us from all the generations of the settler community since 1788, and the rich 40,000 to 60,000 year Aboriginal first nations heritage which is only now beginning to be embraced by mainstream Australia.
Heritage is about what has come to us from the past with an attendant challenge to build upon what is good and to be set free from negative aspects.
So how are children, who generally outlive their parents, a "heritage from the Lord"?
They are a guarantee of the future and perhaps in this sense a focus of the hope we have of family continuity through them, but it is a sense of heritage for the future rather than the past.
For children to be a heritage in a future sense, they need to be welcomed and cherished in the present and to learn our story as a guide for meaning in life.
In past generations the Church in every place provided ministry for children that would help them identify and name the God they already knew when they were born.
In many places now, there are no children at worship, let alone being nourished through a specific child focused ministry.
Now, not every place can do this, and in very small communities we lack people with leadership skills for this purpose. There is however, I believe, a deeper problem and that is confidence.
In many ways we as a Church have lost confidence in our story, and in our rich tradition that has been formed by that story. We are far too apologetic for who we are and what we have to offer.
A flow on from this is that many families have lost confidence in the Church as significant people for their children's growth in spiritual experience and understanding, and thus allow secular activities to fill the space.
For people like us who are formed by the Very Big God Story that is full of life, truth and grace, recognising children as a heritage from the Lord for their future well-being is an urgent priority.
Yours in Christ,
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