The theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer gatherings is “Let justice prevail”. We have been learning a little of what life is like for people and especially women in Malaysia. As of 2011 Malaysia has been classified as a newly industrialized country. It has made great economic progress over recent years, but that does not mean that the wealth that has been created has been shared equitably with all of Malaysia’s citizen.
There are still great injustices and this morning we have heard how some people have struggled and responded to those injustices, for themselves and for others.
Malaysia is a very diverse country, ethnically culturally, spiritually. The government has done much to try and bring about unity but the division and therefore the injustices continue as one group is favoured over another.
We have prayed for Malaysia in this struggle and if you are anything like me you may have felt glad we live here in Australia on King Island.
We have just heard the story of Irene Fernandez and her research and work with migrant workers in detention centres and how the government responded to that research by arresting her imprisoning her for 7 years on charges of, “maliciously publishing false news”.
One of the very hot political topics is Asylum seekers ... or as the newspapers incorrectly labels them, “illegal entrants”. Label like that are good. They help justify actions that might not otherwise stand up to scrutiny. Especially if you can demonise those you wish to treat with injustice, add label like “Muslim terrorist” and it becomes acceptable to believe anything of “them”.
That they might callously throw their children over board that their reason for coming 1000’s of kms on a leaky boat is so they can become suicide bombers.
I worked for 2 years as a Chaplain to Villawood Immigrant Detentions Centre before being banned from entering a detentions centre after speaking out about what I had seen there.
There I met Muslims, Tamil Tigers, Iraqis, Iranians, Fijians, Chinese, Africans and even English detainees and refugees.
I sat with them, ate with them, prayed with some, cried with others and I marvelled how just like me they all were. They wanted safety, and a home, they wanted the best for their children. Poverty though made their choice limited they sometimes arrived at solutions that shocked but I found that their motives were usually rational and when explained, I may well have been forced to make the same responses.
· For one mother this meant giving her daughter to a wealthy Canadian as his property, as an owned slave because in Canada she would eat, have health care and only be expected to please one man. In her own country these things could not be taken for granted.
· Much of the political debate in Australia over recent years has been in what we should do with these people. Should we send them to Nehru or the Malaysian solution? Malaysia!
· We have just heard what conditions are like in the camps there for migrants.
· I think it is only possible for Australians to contemplate this sort of injustice when people remain a “label” , remain “other”. When we consider it a case of “us or them”.
Treating people with love and justice though is risky ...
· It can make us vulnerable; when we love instead of fear we risk being rejected.
· When we treat people with generosity; some people will take advantage of that generosity.
· It is emotionally draining caring for the poor those who are marginalized. Rather than sending them away to become someone else’s problem.
But when strangers become known to us, we learn that we share hopes, fears and dreams. They cease to be the enemy, the other, the refugee, the alien and instead we together become more human. We might even become friends, we may treat them with love ... not fear. With justice ... instead of inhumanity.