A lamentable lack of compassion
On Saturday 3 August more than 250 UnitingChurch members from across Sydney gathered for a sombre hour-long service of lament at Australia’s harsh policies against asylum seekers.
The Moderator of the NSW/ACT Synod Rev. Dr Brian Brown opened the service at PittStreetUnitingChurch by expressing deep concern for the well-being of those fleeing danger and oppression.
“We are here to lament their dire plight, especially that, having experienced deep pain and loss at the beginning of their journeys, they are now facing rejection and utter hardship as well at the end of their search for freedom and security,” said Rev. Dr Brown.
“We are also here to lament the state of our nation’s soul; that the place of the ‘fair go’, that sings of having ‘boundless plains to share’, is now turning away those who most need our welcome, our shelter and our comfort.”
Every corner of the historic old Church echoed with haunting voices of lament that cried out against persecution faced by people fleeing for their lives, at the injustice against fellow human beings, and at the tone of the public debate on asylum seekers.
The voices of lament were punctuated by soulful soloist Charissa Suli singing, “Were you there when the boats were turned away? Were you there when those lives were lost at sea? Were you there when the nation turned its face?” to the tune of Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
The Bible reading was the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), while Tamil congregation leader Rev. Dr John Jegasothy read the Lord’s Prayer in Tamil – the native language of many asylum seekers.
At the end of the service candles were lit from the Christ candle and subsequently around the church, spreading light into darkness, before the Moderator led the congregation out on to the steps of the Church on Pitt Street for a brief public rendition of the liturgy.
Speaking to media after the service Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice said that Christians were called to treat every human being with dignity and respect.
“Fear driven politics punishes vulnerable people and I hope that with services like today we can begin to embrace a politics of generosity, hope and love.”
“This was an important action on behalf of the UnitingChurch and its members,” said Rev. Dr John Jegasothy.
“For UnitingChurch members to come together to lament the dark and growing stain on our nation’s soul is a powerful message.”
Similar services of lament were held at UnitingChurch congregations across NSW over the weekend of 3-4 August. More services of lament are scheduled in other cities around the country in the weeks ahead.
The liturgy written by Rev. Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Rev. Kent Crawford, Justin Whelan and Radhika Sukumar is available for download at https://bit.ly/lament-liturgy
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