When #LoveMakesAWay


23 Jun 2015
Love Makes a Way (Depicted on social media with the hashtag #LoveMakesAWay) is an ecumenical group formed in response to the government’s statement to would-be refugees that ‘No Way’ would they ever receive refuge in Australia if they came by boat.
On June 17, ten years to the day since John Howard said that all asylum seeker children would be released from detention, forty religious leaders from various denominations and from across Australia sat down in protest in Parliament House Canberra, claiming that love would make a way. The lament sung was ‘Were you there when our nation turned its face?’ ‘Were you there when the kids were locked away?’ There are still children in asylum detention, over two hundred of them.
What do we actually do when we pray for a person, a situation, or a problem?  There is a real sense in prayers of petition that we are acknowledging our dependence on God and that we don’t have all the answers. Jesus told us to ask and we would receive. But he did not specify that we would get what we asked for, only that we would receive. Further, he said that God would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked.  He didn’t say that the Holy Spirit would be given only when someone asked for the Holy Spirit; he said the Holy Spirit would be given if we ask (Lk 11:13). So I might ask God for something I really want, or for relief from a problem, but what I can confidently expect is that I will be given the Holy Spirit.
What do we mean by asking God to ‘help’ the asylum seekers? Think of a boatload of asylum seekers on the high seas. What are we expecting God to do about this? Pluck them up and put them somewhere safe? Sometimes, prayers are for the leaders of our nation whose policies totally reject boat-people. What are we asking God to do about the politicians responsible? A Damascus moment perhaps, for the whole parliament?
It is a serious situation if the followers of Christ in Australia are satisfied to mouth a prayer or two for asylum seekers in the expectation that God, by some extraordinary process yet to be demonstrated, will rescue boat people, fix the situations from which they escaped, or change politicians’ minds.
The answer to prayer for the asylum seekers, as for other requests, is the Spirit of God.
It is not only politicians who need to be ‘inspired’, who need the Spirit, it’s us.  A conversion needs to happen in me, in you, so that we will not sit back while the humanity of asylum seekers is craftily hidden, and while political parties manufacture enemies from which they can appear to save us and hence secure our votes, nor while the human rights of vulnerable people are threatened, nor while leadership is in thrall to polling and talk-back radio shows which have elements displaying all the honour, trustworthiness and courage of any other form of anonymous communication.
It is love that will make a way. Christianity is an incarnational religion. God became human, was crucified, and rose in Jesus. We express an integral aspect of that resurrection when we sing: “Christ has no body now, but yours”. What we are praying for when we pray for asylum seekers is that God will help them through you and me, through us. The sub-text of our prayer must be that we accept our shared humanity with boat people, with all the consequences of that truth.  We are praying that we refuse to accept the repelling of asylum seeker boats as the absolute national policy that it has become. Such a prayer implies that we reject the subjection of truth-telling, the Navy, transparency, the rule of law, international responsibilities, politicians’ electoral prospects, and human compassion to the supreme demands of this now non-negotiable Australian response to a world-wide crisis.
In these times when leadership has been replaced by a type of followership, dependent on focus groups, media image and popularity polls, the leaders must be given something meaty to follow. A critical mass of people who believe that love always makes a way can provide that leadership.
As prayers are said for asylum seekers, God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on those who pray, the Spirit who brings every gift needed for the task of acting in, with and like Christ.
Susan is a Sister of St Joseph who has worked with the people of Timor-Leste. She is now studying the relationship between Australia and East Timor, using the theories of René Girard on violence, scapegoating, and the Christian imperative of forgiveness and non-retaliation.
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