‘Hostages’ not ‘detainees’ on Manus and Nauru

It is impressive how often the Uniting Church Justice Committee has spoken out for people who have come here seeking refuge, and supporting their rights as human beings and refugees.

The imprisonment of over 1100 innocent people indefinitely on Manus Island (PNG) and Nauru, is monstrous. In the Guardian Weekly of 2/3/18 I argue that they are actually ‘hostages’, not ‘detainees’. They are being held indefinitely without having done anything wrong. They are being subject to ‘people swaps.’

If the Samaritan in the Christian Testament was ‘good’, what are we?

A group of us, many from the Uniting Church, are protesting against these people being held hostage by our government. We are holding a ‘Hostage Happening’ 6-7pm every Friday (till they are free) at the Queen Victoria statue in front of the QVB in Sydney.

All groups and people who want to stand up for human rights, are welcome to join us, bring your own banners if you like, and use our open mic megaphone. We welcome groups such as Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children (GADRC) and People Just Like Us (PJLU). We absolutely support the Palm Sunday Refugee march and rally, 2pm 25th March, at Belmore Park, Sydney.

As John Farnham once sang:

“We’re not going to sit in silence,

“We’re not going to live in fear.”

We are inspired by Behrouz Boochani and his friends who are resisting injustice on Manus Island. We know something of the horrors being endured by the people on Nauru, because of the Nauru Files, so ably expressed in the recent remarkable art exhibition All We Can’t See, until recently at Potts Point: now you can see it online. We are inspired also by Adelaide, Melbourne and Newcastle, which already have weekly protests. We are also in solidarity with the Indigenous people of Manus and Nauru, who are being treated with huge disrespect by the Australian government, in our name.

This is not a new organisation. It is a place to get together for people who are concerned about human rights in Australia. We want to turn the tables on human rights in Australia, this year. There have been too many years of disgrace and suffering. Australia has been locking up innocent people seeking asylum here, since 1993. It must end. Too many people have died.

I think Noam Chomsky, linguist and activist, nails it:

“The true measure of the moral level of a society is how it treats the most vulnerable people. Few are as vulnerable as those who have fled to Australia in terror and are locked away without charge, their terrible fate veiled in secrecy.

We may not be able to do much, beyond lamenting, about North Korean prisons. But we can do a great deal about severe human rights violations right within reach.”

This peaceful, but not quiet, action has been endorsed by John Pilger, Professor Noam Chomsky, and also has the blessing of Pitt St. Uniting Church.

Please come and join our protest. Bring a speech or poem to read, if you like, and bring a musical instrument if you want to. Please bring your voice and have tea or coffee afterwards. All are welcome.


In solidarity and with best wishes,

Wali (See you later in Walmadjarri, Western Desert language),

Stephen Langford, OT (Order of Timor), Pitt St Uniting Church.


Image: People seeking asylum detained on Manus Island (Source: AAP 2017).

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