ACT News

ACT Christian leaders turn minds to society's most vulnerable

The plight of asylum seekers, the recent vandalism of the Canberra Islamic Centre, and the impending arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George are just some of the subjects on the minds of Canberra's Christian leaders this Easter.

"There is some poignancy that while upwards of 3000 Canberrans from all walks of life gathered in Garema Place on Palm Sunday to 'break the silence' on Australia's unjust treatment of asylum seekers, a few other nameless individuals were wreaking havoc in the Canberra Islamic Centre, sending an entirely different message," said Reverend Ivan Roberts, the chairman of the Canberra Region Presbytery of the Uniting Church.

"Those who gathered in Garema Place did so because we stubbornly believe in Australia as a welcoming and inclusive community, concerned for the well-being of the most vulnerable in society, such as asylum seekers or people marginalised because of their religious beliefs."

Christopher Prowse, the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, concurred.

"So many relational walls divide us: walls that make marriage and the family break up and foster homelessness; that make the asylum seeker feel unwelcome; that continue to marginalise our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; [and] that tempt the hopeless to entertain suicide," he said.

"Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus has built a permanent bridge between God and all of humanity. It is a divine gift. Christians call it an 'amazing grace'."


The Right Reverend Stuart Robinson, the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, also called for further community support for asylum seekers.

"On Palm Sunday, many of us were standing with those who fled war-torn lands to find a better life in Australia," he said.

"They wanted to give their children the gift of peace, compassion and an opportunity that many of us take for granted."

Speaking of the most recent boat arrivals, he noted: "They have been imprisoned for taking unimaginable risks on the high seas, while those who profit from their pains reap unfair gains."

Bishop Robinson was critical of the veil of secrecy that had descended over the management of the asylum seeker detention centres, calling them prisons.

"Many well-intentioned people try to keep us from seeing what is happening in those overseas prisons," he said. "Many try to keep those detained from speaking or seeking legal advice."

He said one of the lessons the church had learnt from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was that nobody could ?be silent about "behaviour that destroys people's very souls".

He said that while all of Canberra was looking forward to welcoming a child who may one day be king, Easter was the time to remember "another king who came, not with a motorcade but on a working donkey. Before long, the cheers turned to jeers."

Bishop Robinson said: "On Good Friday, Jesus took our worst so that on Easter morning, we could be reconciled with him and become a people characterised by peace, compassion and a graciousness that offers others opportunities for a better life."

Reverend Roberts said he wanted Christians to remember they were called to "keep alive our vision for a healed and transformed world of compassion and justice until it becomes a reality. Such is our calling as Easter people."