30 April, 2009

Baby Nicholas

This story caught my eye on yahoo today...
"Baby Nicholas, the newborn dumped at a Sydney tip just over two months ago, has been buried at the city's Rookwood Cemetery. About two dozen members of the public turned out to farewell baby Nicholas. He has been buried in a tiny, baby blue coffin, adorned with flowers and teddy bears. It was a far different scene to the pauper's funeral he seemed destined for until members of the public and the state coroner intervened to give him a proper burial. Baby Nicholas's body was discovered at a waste facility in Sydney's south-west in February. Police tried but failed to find the baby's mother. Several officers touched by the emotional case attended today's funeral."

Now I am not known for being a crazed pro-choice or pro-life activist (though I am obviously pro-life), but I will say it does confuse me that the public can be so emotional and concerned about the well- being of babies and children, but have no concern with thier welfare prior to their birth. Is there something life giving as a baby exits the womb? Is it only then they become a 'real' person that is worth mourning and worth fighting for? Something for you to think about.

Also, if you have 23 seconds to spare, and you are living in Australia, could you fill out this survey and ask three others to as well?
"Our Territory's Social Programme & Public Relations Departments are collecting information on the personal impact of Australia's worsening economic situation. As part of this task we would like to know the response to several questions from a cross section of Australians . Please take the survey that is available on the Territory's home page (http://www.salvationarmy.org.au). This survey will open until Tuesday 5 May 2009 midnight.

Email Link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=pGhUEgaI6MQ9VTYyEmsAaQ_3d_3d

Please pass this link to your fellow Australians. Feel to facebook, blog & twitter this link!"


24 April, 2009

The problem with boat people...

“Boat people create a lot of problems for me. I feel like the country is being taken over. They bring their own culture and religion and foods, and they don’t try at all to be like us. They don’t seem to understand that this is OUR country. Now, I understand that conditions back in their homes are not very good, and that they are coming here to make a better life for themselves. But have they ever thought that by coming here and doing the same things they did back home, they are just going to make my country all messed up like theirs is? No, if they want to be here, they are going to have to learn to live like us. Otherwise, my home will be ruined, and that is not fair. And how do they think they are going to look after themselves? I am happy to help out a little and do my share. But if we are not careful, and if we don’t protect our borders from all these boats that keep coming and coming, they are going to take over and then where will we be? So I say, we stand firm on the boat people, and make sure these people do things like us.”

This is not a direct quote, but something I could imagine coming from an Indigenous Australian as the boat loads of convicts and settlers first arrived on our shores. Something to think about as we get protective and defensive about land that apparently cannot be ‘claimed’!

21 April, 2009

Asylum Seekers: The kryptonite of Australian international politics

The asylum seeker debate is about to take off once more, and my only hope is that the Labor Government can hold some semblance of humanity through the inevitable public and media bombardment to come.

This week, a boat load of Afghan asylum seekers were intercepted in Australian waters off the coast of Western Australia. Whilst waiting to be towed to Christmas Island for mandatory detention and processing, an incident occurred that led to the flimsy boat exploding.

Forty-one boat blast survivors remain in three hospitals. 23 in Royal Perth Hospital; all have been operated on and are in a stable condition. Seven in Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Four remain in critical condition and are in induced comas. Five have developed blood infections. 11 in Royal Darwin Hospital; all are in a stable condition. Three released into the custody of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Three killed, two missing and presumed dead.

It is an incident that stirs passion for justice within me, but also a fear of the possibility of racist and isolationist policy that we have experienced in our not so distant past. The Rudd government has brought some dignity and common sense back into immigration policy, and has removed horrific practices of mandatory, long term detention of asylum seekers, including children. Many detainees were left 'incarcerated' for over three years while waiting for the Australian government to process their application. These conditions led most asylum seekers to major depression (up to 90%), the development of post traumatic stress, suicide attempts, self harm, hunger strikes, escape attempts and more. Children emaciated, developed a catatonic state, and one eleven year old girl attempted suicide. Oh, and let me remind you, these are asylum seekers and not criminals! These instances are not rumours...they are documented by medical experts and advocates. This period in our history, along with so many others it seems, is a disgrace.

Have you seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? Can you imagine at the end of the movie, after so much sadness and chaos and violence and injustice, the asylum seekers are then rounded up and detained for three years? Or how about The Sound of Music? Should we have locked Gretel up after she came down from the mountain and waited for her to go so insane and sew her lips together in a hunger strike? These are people FLEEING for their lives!

It seems we are happy to join the US in the war against terror to fight for democracy...as long as that means 'these people' stay in their country, and don't try to come to ours. It all seems too strange to comprehend. So much of our murky history is tainted by entrenched racism, and we must work as a nation to repent of such sin.

So as the media whips up a scare campaign claiming more boats will come because of 'Rudd's weak policy' lets remember, that are coming because they are fleeing from major persecution and violence. This is no plane trip to the Gold Coast. This is desperate attempt at the life all humans deserve. I am not saying we should throw open the flood gates. I am however saying that in 2002 there were over 15 million refugees worldwide, and these victims are being cared for, mostly in camps within impoverished nations. Australia's acceptance of refugees is minuscule compared with that of most of the world. And the chance of making it to Australia 'legitimately' is almost negligible. So I am just suggesting, rather than letting the whole country snap into our default racist and selfish stance, let's just keep it in perspective and start to do our share. Maybe it will be a burden, but I am thinking it well be less of a burden than it is on Tanzania, who would kick our humanitarian butt.

Sorry this degenerated into an uneducated rant. Please do some research and advocacy and be prepared for the avalanche.


Note: 'An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection. In countries with individualized procedures, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which he or she submitted it. Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.'
(United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Master Glossary of Terms, June 2006)

09 April, 2009

Fiction meets Reality

I recently read about the filming of an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" that took place at the United Nations, in New York. What struck me about this isn't that it is the first television show to be granted permission to film at the UN's New York Headquarters as much as I was taken by the intent to use the show's popularity to raise awareness of African child soldiers, refugees, warlords and the International Criminal Court.

An actor on the show explained the intent of this particular television program as one that "shine[s] light in the dark places that no one wants to go or talk about because there's usually a lot of shame and denial about it." Drawing on the experience and information from John Prendergast, of the Enough Project, SVU writers and actors sought to make this particular episode as true to reality as possible. I find it strangely ironic, however that a television program is conducting itself in an arguably church-like manner - "shining light in the dark places...".

I applaud the show's producers and crew in getting an episode like this on the air. It should serve as a catalyst for us to take the heightened awareness to the next level of action in doing something about the atrocities executed against innocent people in such situations. Let's pick up the torch and carry the light further into those dark places, exposing the darkness for what it really is.

~ Rob

07 April, 2009

The take-away justice meal

This week is too big for the blog! It's like drive thru 'comment on justice', and I am ordering the 'value meal'.

1. The Fries - Employment Services: This week the government announced the tender results for the newly named Job Newtwork (Employment Services). It was a shock to many church based organisations who found they did not receive employment contracts to continue their services to unemployed people. Executive director of Catholic Social Services, Frank Quinlan, says the major church providers of social services are calling for an independent review into how the Jobs Services Australia contracts are allocated. Is there a conspiracy on the part of the government to oust churches from government contracts? What would be the motive of such a move? It calls us as The Salvation Army to stop and evaluate our role within society, and the way in which we access all supports available to us to administer our core business. Why are we helping unemployed peoples, who's responsibility is it, and how will we continue to help vulnerable people if we were to be shut out of government contracts? Interesting food for thought. Perhaps it is also interesting to reflect on the tentativeness on the part of all not-for-profits to speak out against the government. Don't bite the hand that feeds you...but in this case, did it make any difference? I am not making a judgemnet on that particular issue one way or the other. I will say that it is the DNA of the Army to be a prophetic voice and to advocate and protect those that have been muted and discarded.

2. The Burger - Stimulus package: "Bonus payments aimed at stimulating the economy will start falling into the hands of millions of eligible taxpayers this week. People who earned $100,000 or less over the last financial year and lodged a tax return will automatically receive a payout. The full payment of $900 will go to those whose income was $80,000 or less, while people who earned up to $90,000 will receive $600 and those who earned up to $100,000 will receive $250." (report from ABC)
What can I say? I am always so demanding about what we should do with our cash. We should give it to those that need it and not be selfish and excessive! And yet this week it seems that the 'just' thing to do is to spend? It is true, spending on the local economy is going to help business and save jobs. It is going to help our economy to spend no matter how counter intuitive it seems. And yet that doesn't mean we should go out and spend on ourselves! Just because the government gives you $900 bucks and tells you to spend it, you don't have to splurge on a big screen tv! If you are so keen to stimulate the economy, you could always spend the money on someone who actually needs the goods. I am sure the 150 or so asylum seekers that have just been shipped to Christmas Island this week might be in need of some new shoes. Or perhaps some of the 9000 men, women and children that are already here living on no income and no social support could use a toaster? I am just saying, be a little creative and imagine that there is someone who could need the money more than you?

3. The diet coke - OWSOMS: For those of us in Australia, OWSOMS (One Week Salary on Mission Service) is upon us. What an opportunity! We have the privilege of being in an Army that creates a way of helping us to sacrifice for the good of others. I know it can be painful. One person I spoke to this week commented that it used to take her a whole year to save for OWSOMS. But it works, and we produce an abundance of wealth that is transported to a place that will be transformed because of it. Ironic that the $900 will be released in the same week? Could God be calling you to send this money (that isn't really yours at all) somewhere that really needs it?

4. The Sundae - Easter: Speaking of major selfless sacrifice, this week we recognise that our beautiful Saviour died for our sins, so that if we repent and believe we can share everlasting life with Him. This is what it's all about. Justice is merely a byproduct of the life of holiness Jesus both enables and calls us in to. So enjoy dessert this week. Really relish and savour it, and share it around with a bunch of others. It is the quickest and most efficient way of creating a world filled with justice.

Thanks guys,
A reflective Good Friday and a happy Resurrection Sunday for you, and hopefully a whole lot more.


01 April, 2009

Earn to survive

Someone was talking to me about our eating habits in the developed world. They said that here, we live to eat as opposed to eat to live. We like food. We like the flavours, we like to indulge, to treat ourselves. We like to dine at fancy restaurants and we like to binge at fast food joints. The point is, we eat a lot, and we usually think nothing of it.

The alternative is what the majority of the world do on a regular basis. They eat to live. They find the food they need if they can, and they continue to exist. That's not to say they don't eat nice food or celebrate and share in wonderful community times over food. Its not to say that eating in the developed world is function only. However, the excess and waste would differ I suspect.

I started to apply the same formula to money. Do we survive to earn or do we earn to survive? In other words, does our whole life and purpose revolve, or appear to revolve around our paid employment, or do we simply work enough so that we can live life? The reason I ask is that I see a lot of people working long hours and stressed to the max so they can maintain a certain lifestyle, and yet that lifestyle is really one of choice as oppose to one of need. And so the alternative is to earn as much as you need. This frees you up to do a whole load of stuff for God instead.

One couple in particular I know, gave up successful careers, and the chance at a choice lifestyle so that they could invest wholeheartedly in the mission God has for them. They are not stupid, or careless. They are very careful about how they commit themselves to their work. They make sure they neither put themselves, or their family in jeopardy, whilst also not robbing God of the hours that should be devoted to Him and His eternal purposes. They are an inspiration, and the fruit of their labour will be an abundance.

So I challenge you this week to think about how much you really need to earn, and discover whether this is God's plan for you. Perhaps you could shave off some hours and increase those hours at your corps/church? Think about it and talk about it with God. What an increase in capacity we would see if Christians all over committed more hours to Him.

Good times,