A vote for social justice

A vote for social justice

I am writing this before the federal election, so despite polling making predictions about who is going to win I don’t know what will unfold as the campaign continues. By the time you read this you will know.

What I do know is that the two main parties’ position on refugees and asylum seekers seems like a race to the bottom. A vote grabbing exercise. The added irony is that both leaders are quite vocal and visible in their Christian affiliations. Kevin Rudd in 2006 quoted Bonhoeffer as the man he most admires in the history of the twentieth century and used his theology specifically to address how Christians should approach the issue of asylum seekers. That view seems to have gone out the window under the pressure for votes. Tony Abbot’s views do not take account of centuries of Catholic social teaching.

We march as a church. We lament as a church. But we vote as individuals.

I wonder what a reading of Matthew 25 would do for us at this point? Remember that story of judgement? Read it carefully again. It’s not about how individuals are to respond – it’s a story about the judgement of nations. Included in the criteria is, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. How will our nation be judged on that? Will we be in the goats’ line or over with the sheep – remembering that in the story, everyone is surprised at the unexpected line they have found themselves in!

What a job for the early scribes who had to copy out four times the criteria for the basis of the judgement. And although it’s not a very Protestant thing to say, it seems to me the whole judgement is based on what people do. I believe what we do determines who we are. Right belief is important but so too is right action.

So, whatever the policy we have post-election on asylum seekers, the issue for us will be: What will we do? What will we do to help our country and our leaders stand up for what we believe to be the right thing to do?

I went to the rugby the other night (Wallabies v All Blacks – we lost!). When it came to singing the national anthem I had a moment I have never had before. How can I sing with pride when I know this same anthem says “for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”? I felt uncomfortable.

As Assembly President, Andrew Dutney, pointed out: “The uncomplicated truth – the unheard truth – is this: Our borders are not under threat. It is not illegal to seek asylum. There is no such thing as an orderly queue. We are not being overrun by asylum seekers on leaky boats. There is no ‘refugee emergency’ or ‘crisis’ in Australia.

The reality is around 45 million people worldwide are displaced because of conflict, famine and persecution. This is the truth that Kevin Rudd has turned his back on and that Tony Abbott wilfully disregards in this awful debate. 

In their desire to secure more votes in the election, Labor and the Coalition are engaging in what must be one of the hardest and most retributory round of policies we have seen in this country since the White Australia program.”

So, whoever is in government, we believe you should know that you do not speak for us on this issue and that as a church we will continue to raise our voice in the hope that you will raise your vision.

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