28 February, 2009

An oldie but a goodie...

"To change the nature of the individual (he wrote), to get at the heart, to save his soul is the only real, lasting method of doing him any good. In many modern schemes of social regeneration, it is forgotten that it takes a soul to move a body, e’en to a cleaner sty and at the risk of being misunderstood and misinterpreted, I must assert in the most unqualified way that it is primarily and mainly for the sake of saving the soul that I seek the salvation of the body. But what is the use of preaching the gospel to men whose whole attention is concentrated upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive? You might as well give a tract to a shipwrecked sailor who is battling with the surf which has drowned his comrades and threatens to drown him. He will not listen to you. Nay, he cannot hear you, anymore than the man whose head is underwater can listen to a sermon. The first thing to do is to get him at least a footing on firm ground and to give him room to live. The you may have a chance. At present you have none. And you will have all the better opportunity to find a way to his heart. If he comes to know that it was you who pulled him out of the horrible pit and the miry clay in which he was sinking to perdition." William Booth

So, what more could I say? Just my take on it...
1. Social work is not salvation, but it is a logical and essential tool along the way.
2. If people haven't experienced salvation in any earthly sense, how could you expect them to experience in a Kingdom sense? It is like trying to teach children maths without first showing them numbers.
3. Real and long lasting change must therefore strive to be holistic, including both the body and the soul. Does this mean there is no salvation without social help? No, though the odds and lasting results would be interesting to see. And does it mean we only help others to evangelise? No, that would be kind of manipulative and shallow. Socail help and evangelism go hand in hand. If you don't believe me...read the Bible!

Hope this is helpful...


13 February, 2009

Just Speaking PODCAST 2

An interview/update about the Victorian Bush Fire relief campaign with Major David Eldridge from The Salvation Army Austrlian Southern Territory.

Sorry ...

As you are not doubt aware today marks the first anniversary of Australia's apology, through the Federal Parliament, to the indigenous people of this nation who were affected by and involved in the Stolen Generation. I say that you are no doubt aware because it has obviously been at the forefront of media coverage, bushfires not withstanding. The media has been falling, head over heels to report on the numerous ways that we have moved forward as a nation in this new sense of reconciliation. The media has highlighted the stories of individuals from the Stolen Generation who have used the Government's compensation money to turn their lives around. We have seen the massive investment in rural health clinics and support services for indigenous people living in remote locations. You have seen the coverage, haven't you?

Of course you haven't and neither have I. We haven't seen the coverage because there hasn't been any to see. It is not the fault of the bushfires either. There has been no coverage because their is nothing to report. Twelve months ago Kevin Rudd stood up and apologised on behalf of the nation to the indigenous people affected by racist Government policies. He committed the government to tackling the huge social problems facing our indigenous population. Not least to tackling the 17 year life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

On this day one year ago we all celebrated a watershed in reconciliation. It was to be as important, if not more important, than Mabo and Wik. The government was implored to back up the symbolic act of an official apology with real action. But there has been no action. Australia's racial discrimination act is still suspended with relation to the quarantining of indigenous Australian's welfare payments. The Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) has been scaled back in outback Northern Territory, meaning many indigenous people have lost that employment and are forced onto the dole. There has been no major spending increase on indigenous health programs or facilities.

Today the Parliament passed the Economic Stimulus package after amendments forced through by the minor parties and the independents in the Senate. Nearly a billion dollars is now to be spent on the Murray-Darling basin, one of Australia's most important water systems, because one elected senator stood up for his constituents. But who stood up and asked for real money to be committed to indigenous Australians? Who wrote to their local member or senator and asked that the stimulus package include housing for remote indigenous communities? Who asked that the job creation measures include the resumption of the CDEP and the employment that it brought for indigenous communities?

To say sorry was an important step. It was a watershed moment for our nation. But if it continues to be let down by a lack of action then as a nation we all suffer. It is time to Close the Gap.


12 February, 2009

It's been a difficult week

The bushfires across Victoria are still burning. The threats of more dangerous fires are low, but as they start to reduce, the reality of the situation starts to hit.

The official death toll is 181 but police now say as many as 300 people may have lost their lives.

In the town of Marysville, a town of just 500 people, police suspect as many as 100 have perished. That is a fifth of the town! How do you begin to consider this, let alone begin the recovery process?

Well, Salvos are out in full force doing the thing they do best. We are serving and listening and giving and supporting...all the things that flow through our veins and pour out to extinguish crisis. But we will need more than our natural inclinations to get through this one. Horrific stories of loss, and the scars of bush fires leave us with a task much bigger than ourselves. And while the immediate response signifies our 'Army', 'Salvation' will be our mark of recovery and healing. We need prayer, and a tonne of it.

So anyway, while the fires were raging on Sunday, taking with it 181 lives, I was attending the Ambassadors of Holiness welcome meeting. The cadets sang the most wonderful sessional song which I love and will want to hear again and again. But I can't help but think that our enemy was hoping to pervert the session's mission and passion. You see the chorus of the song cries "keep the fire burning". My husband later commented, "do you think that was in poor taste?" Well, that is satan's attack, but here comes the counter attack. While the enemy comes to steal, our saviour comes to bring life. So while satan attempts to take both lives, and the passion of the Ambassadors of Holiness, I suggest they should bring life. I encourage every cadet to bring salvation to the lives of 181 people, or more throughout the coming years. We will win.

In the meantime, please be praying for the families that have been affected. I know it seems cliché, but do it anyway please!

Hope to have happier times next week,


08 February, 2009

PRAY for the end of the fires in Victoria.

Horror fire toll hits 84

8:25pm Staff reporters
UPDATE 10:07pm: THE death toll in Australia's worst ever bushfires has hit 84. TV veteran Brian Naylor has been confirmed dead.

THE SALVATION ARMY is out in full force working in the front lines of fire ravished communities. Please pray for volunteers, financial support and energy for those co-ordinating relief efforts and please pray for the end of the fires.

07 February, 2009

FAIRTRADE Australia partners with Stop The Traffik at justsalvos sponsored event.

Check out the fairtrade australia website for a report on the fairtrade chocolate fondue party at FedSquare in Melbourne... over 2000 people were part of the celebration. Spreading the good news of liquid justice!

06 February, 2009

Just Speaking PODCAST

Thoughts on social justice from JUST Salvos in Australia.

Are you ready to help?

It is easy to read about Thailand's terrible treatment of asylum seekers and get angry. Good. So you should. It is a cruel injustice. However, we have to be aware of the state of asylum seekers in Australia. Read through this part of an article below...

"For three-year-old Sanara, justice is a big word and an even bigger concept. In the past six months Sanara's mother and grandmother have both attempted suicide and her grandmother has recently been diagnosed with a secondary cancer. Her family has no income, cannot access Medicare and relies on a few charities to provide food, clothing and housing. Each family member receives $33 per week from Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project, to spend on basic necessities.

Sanara and her family are stuck between systems. Their care seems to be no-one's responsibility. When Sanara's mother was admitted to hospital for the second time, the hospital staffer responded by saying, 'this is an immigration matter, not ours'. Yet when a Department of Immigration official heard Sanara's story she accused the family of using the threat of suicide as a way of manipulating the Minister for Immigration.

Justice for Sanara's family has become a point of debate. For some justice demands the removal of the family back to their homeland. For others it demands that it be given the chance to make a home in Australia. For a few it demands that Sanara and her family receive health care and basic services in order to help them to accept the reality that they must return to their country of origin. For Sanara it is relatively simple. Whatever the outcome of her immigration status, she wants food in her belly more than once a day, a house that is safe and secure, and for her mother and grandmother to get the help they need today. But none of her desires is granted."
part of an article by Caz Coleman, Project Director of the Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project.

We have people living in our country who don't have access to health care? To food? To pensions? To employment? To employment assistance? To housing? How are they supposed to live? That's the point...they are not. Be prepared to ask yourself what kind of justice outcome you are willing to fight for? Is it removal from Australia back to whatever negative situation a person was fleeing from? Is it the attainment of social security and all Australian citizenship has to offer? Is it the provision of basic human rights? Because your thinking on this determines the policy response. If the public outcry was significant (and it should be) we would see some changes. Your opinion and response matters. Don't hide from that!

After opinion comes action. I have an idea, so let's coordinate a response. Who's with me???


04 February, 2009

Just another tragic waste of lives...

The following story was seen in The Age today. Read it through and then if you want, read through my thoughts below that...

Burmese asylum seekers recount sea horrors
Tom Allard, Jakarta
February 4, 2009 The Age Newspaper
BURMESE asylum seekers have described a harrowing ordeal at sea before their rescue by the Indonesian Navy yesterday.

Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers said 20 of the 218 on their vessel died from starvation after being towed out to sea by the Thai military.

They have told Indonesian authorities their rickety wooden boat was one of nine vessels towed back out to sea, stripped of engines and left to drift after initially making landfall on the west coast of Thailand about a month ago. According to their account, as many as 1800 Rohingya - twice the initial estimates - were set adrift with meagre rations of food and water.

Thailand's alleged mistreatment of the asylum seekers has become an international scandal, despite denials by the Thai Government of any wrongdoing.

The boat was intercepted on Monday afternoon in the Strait of Malacca, 68 nautical miles from the east coast of Aceh, Indonesia's northernmost province on the tip of the island of Sumatra.

"Their condition was very poor when we found them. They said they had run out of food," said Lieutenant Jul, the Indonesian Navy spokesman from the Idi Rayeuk sea post in Banda Aceh.

"They said originally they were about 220, but 20 died on the sea. The total of them now is 198 people. (They died) because of not enough food."

Some of the survivors bore scars, which they alleged were caused by beatings from Thai security forces. All of them - males ranging in age from 13-50 - were emaciated and many had been hospitalised after their arrival in Aceh.

The 12-metre boat was in extremely poor condition, held together by rope.

Lieutenant Jul told The Age that the account of the journey had been provided by the only Malay speaker on board, a 37-year-old man. Malay is similar to Bahasa Indonesian.

The man had told them that nine boats in all had been taken out to sea by Thai authorities. Each boat had "around 200" people on board.

"They don't know where the other boats are," Lieutenant Jul said.

It appears one of the boats had previously made landfall in Aceh last month, while another was picked up by the Indian Navy near the Andaman Islands.

The fate of the other boats is unknown and aid groups fear that hundreds of asylum seekers have drowned or starved to death.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority from the western Burmese province of Arakan and neighbouring Bangladesh. Many have fled Burma to Bangladesh, where 28,000 have registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans last year said they lived in "conditions described by some humanitarian agencies as the worst they have ever seen".

Other Rohingya pay people smugglers to transport them by boat from Burma to Malaysia via the Thai coastline.

The Thai foreign ministry did not return calls yesterday but, in a press release issued on January 23, obliquely acknowledged the forced removal of the Rohingya asylum seekers back to sea.

"It is estimated that up to 20,000 illegal Rohingya migrants have entered Thailand over the years and remain within the kingdom - as distinguished from recent arrivals, of whom none presently remain in Thailand," the statement read.

Four days later, it issued another press release with a highly qualified denial of mistreatment as international outrage mounted about the disabling of the Rohingya boats. "This must be categorically denied as having no place in policy and procedures," the statement said, adding the military would be investigating the claims.

The Burmese junta has flatly denied the Rohingya actually exist, while both Thailand and Indonesia have previously described them as "economic migrants".
As if asylum seekers didn't have it tough enough already. They make it to the shores of a land they hope will provide a better existence than they had in their homeland. They leave everything and cram themselves on a boat in horrific conditions. They have usually paid a fortune to get onto the boat in the first place which took all sorts of sacrifice. And then, when they arrive in Thailand, their engine is taken from their boat and they are towed out to sea! To drift, and most likely to die. On this latest occasion, at least 20 have died.

It is a tragedy. If only the Australian government had a remotely helpful policy for asylum seekers. Then I could stand boldly and offer to help so many desperate people in our world who need us. A thought pops into my mind. It is a little strange. As a soldier I sit through so many sermons and conferences teaching me and encouraging me to find people in need, and to bring them to my corps. We look around and wonder why our corps is not filled with people and get excited when we pull a crowd of 50 or 60 to a youth event. And then we read that a boat load of people were left to drift and die. If only we had been taught how to find these people and bring them to our corps???

Well, I will try to find a way. Let's research our country's policy on asylum seekers. Let's find a way to support asylum seekers who are already in our country (about 5000 people) who have access to...nothing except your generosity. Let's find a way to support more asylum seekers. Why? Because they are not getting on the Loveboat for a 30 day cruise! They are fleeing their country and they need our help!

Think about it and contact me if you want to do something about it.


01 February, 2009

A choice we must make daily

A great reflection from Jean Vanier...

"But if I get too near this woman,
if I listen to her
if I begin to know the names of her children
her past
her life
If I identify with her
I can't go on eating as I used to
I can't accept the luxury and the waste
If I truly love
if I feel concerned
my life must change
the time I get up and go to bed
the friends I talk with
go out with
eat with in smart restaurants
the books I read
the money I have to spend..."

The challenge to invest in the same way Jesus did is enormous and costly. We get scared. Understandable. But it is a plunge we must all take if we are to bring about true and lasting justice in our worlds. Please take the time to reflect on this and then, work out a way to move on it.