Home' Aurora : Aurora March 2014 Contents 9
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE,
THE MORE THEY
STAY THE SAME
BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
Last year Aurora reported on a local initiative
inviting people to stand in solidarity with
asylum seeker s and r efugees. Despite fewer
boats repor tedly ar riving at offshore detention
centres, and recent vigils held around the
country to commemorate the tragic death on
Manus Island of Reza Berati, a 23 year-old
from Iran, there is little sense that the issues
have really been addressed.
Magician, and member of Refugee Action
Network Newcastle, David Whitson,
would like to solve the problem of how
to best share Austr alia's resources, but it's
much easier for him to pull a rabbit out of
a hat. He joined the vigil at Queen's Whar f
last year and says, "The vigil has given me
time for reflection on the issue of 'boat
people'. This has prompted me to join the
group 'I am a boat person'. My ancestor s
came across the seas to settle in Austr alia --
they were 'boat people' ! I believe that this
country still has 'boundless plains to share'."
Dominican Sister Ann Keys remembers
the variety of responses she encounter ed
"I was amazed at how many people
walked by and didn't seem to want to
acknowledge that we were there, yet at
the same time glanced at our poster s.
One young girl, attending an end- of-year
school function, made a great impression
by moving from her peer s and expressing,
in a loud voice, why she agreed with what
we were doing. Her peer s did take notice.
One man repeatedly attended to abuse us
verbally, objecting to refugees and to us for
suppor ting them. This helped, because it
led others to notice us!"
It takes a special kind of faith and
commitment to spend an hour in a very
public place taking a compassionate stance
towards a ver y divisive issue. While the
impact is necessarily immeasurable, the two
Sisters whose initiative it was feel that there
is more to be done.
Sr s Jenny Gerathy OP and Annie Laurie
RSJ invite people of goodwill to join them
during the six weeks of Lent to stand in
solidarity with refugees and asylum seeker s .
The weekly gathering will take place
on Thursdays from 6 March to 10
April on the corner of Selma and
Donald Streets, Hamilton, from
5.00-6.00pm. It would be helpful to bring
your own chair, and you are welcome to
stay for ten minutes, or an hour, as often as
you can manage.
Last year Sr Jenny said, "We may feel
speechless in the face of our leaders but
we are not speechless before our God.
We didn't want to rally and enter into
arguments. We wanted to do something
peaceful, something that would encour age
others to think for themselves, and
hopefully bring a peaceful outcome for
Those words are no less relevant today.
In his 2014 Lenten message, Pope Francis
writes of the "the joy of. . .consoling broken
hear ts and offering hope to our brothers
and sister s experiencing darkness". While
this vigil is not only for Christians , its
origins lie in Christian conviction, and so
the season of Lent provides a par ticular
invitation to offer hope in a concrete way.
Sr Beth Egan OP recalls her vigil experience
in these terms : "Some weeks were very
hot, and other s extremely cold. I could only
think of those poor refugees in their little
boats, tr ying to sur vive the heat, cold and
hunger -- not to mention the danger! "
If you par ticipate in this year's Lenten
vigil, you will probably not be hot, cold or
hungry -- but you will be sending a clear
message that the plight of asylum seeker s
and refugees is unacceptable.
To learn more about the vigil, please
contact the editor. A Newcastle
branch of "I am a boat person"
has recently been formed. Please
To read Andrew Hamilton SJ's
article about a worrying move
by the Federal government, visit
www.eurekastreet.com.au and to
register your opposition, visit http://
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