Thousands of demonstrators closed off Broadway for Sydney’s version of the 2018 Palm Sunday peace march. The march and rally drew attention to the plight of asylum seekers held in detention on Nauru and lingering on Manus Island.
Uniting Church NSW and the ACT Moderator, The Reverend Simon Hansford, addressed the Sydney rally at Belmore Park.
Rev. Hansford told the crowd that they had gathered for those who “are told they have no voice and no place of their own.”
“We gather on this day to proclaim a different story, a different, hopeful, life affirming story for all those people in our community,” Rev. Hansford said.
He said that parliament had “for decades” claimed for itself the role of punishing “those who are weakest, to punish those who are least. To punish those who are voiceless, and to call it right.”
“It isn’t one political stripe or the other, it’s the whole range of that, and we must stand up and say no to that,” he said.
Alluding to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s recent comment that media commentators and cartoonists who criticised him were “dead to me”, Rev. Hansford said that there was a duty to call attention to the plight of asylum seekers, even when parliament was not listening.
“When proclamation and protest seems to fall on deaf ears, our task is to also bear witness to our community and to history that on this day, and in days gone past and days to come, we said no to injustice and to wrong,” he said.
“We said “no, these people are not voiceless.” We will speak for them and sing for them and shout for them and proclaim for them.”
Speakers at the Sydney rally put pressure on the Australian parliament to let asylum seekers out of their indefinite detention and to bring them to Australia’s mainland.
Representatives from Uniting joined the rally, as did representatives from Pitt Street, Leichardt, Northmead, South Sydney, Roseville, and other Uniting Church congregations. Demonstrators marched from Belmore Park to Victoria Park, near Sydney University.
Held one week before Easter, the Palm Sunday peace march commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem on a donkey. Since the 1970s, the events have drawn attention to social issues relating to peace. In the 1980s, for example, Palm Sunday peace marches focused on an anti-nuclear theme.
Palm Sunday events took place in most major Australian capital cities, with considerable crowds also present at the Canberra and Melbourne rallies.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor