4th November 2001
St Vincent's Church, Redfern
On that most eventful day, 11th of September, the Dalai
Lama issued a call to reflect on. "There are two possible
responses to what has occurred today. The first comes
from love, the second from fear. If we come from fear
we may panic and do things - as individuals and as nations
- that could only cause further damage. If we come from
love we will find refuge and strength, even as we provide
it to others.
We will set the course for tomorrow, today. At this
hour. In this moment. Let us seek not to pinpoint blame,
but to pinpoint cause.
Unless we take time to look at the cause of our experience,
we will never remove ourselves from the experiences
it creates. Instead, we will forever live in fear of
retribution from those within the human family who feel
aggrieved, and likewise, seek retribution from them.
The message we hear from all sources of truth is clear:
We are all one. That is a message the human race has
largely ignored. Forgetting this truth is the only cause
of hatred and war, and the way to remember is simple:
Love, this and every moment.
If we could love even those who have attacked us, and
seek to understand why they have done so, what then
would be our response? Yet if we meet negativity with
negativity, rage with rage, attack with attack, what
then will be the outcome?
These are the questions that are placed before the
human race today. They are the questions that we have
failed to answer for thousands of years. Failure to
answer them now could eliminate the need to answer them
So, talk with God today. Ask God for help, for counsel
and advice, for insight and for strength and for inner
peace and for deep wisdom. Ask God on this day to show
us how to show up in the world in a way that will cause
the world itself to change. And join all those people
around the world who are praying right now, adding your
Light to the Light that dispels all fear.
That is the challenge that is placed before every thinking
person today. Today the human soul asks the question:
What can I do to preserve the beauty and the wonder
of our world and to eliminate the anger and hatred -
and the disparity that inevitably causes it - in that
part of the world which I touch? A central teaching
in most spiritual traditions is: What you wish to experience
provide for another.
Look to see, now, what it is you wish to experience
- in you own life, and in the world. Then see if there
is another for whom you may be the source of that. If
you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.
If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another
to know that they are safe. If you wish to heal your
own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger
Those others are waiting for you now. They are looking
to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength,
for understanding, and for assurance at this hour. Most
of all, they are looking for love.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
The World Council of Churches sent a communique to
the United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan regarding recent
events: "So long as the cries of those humiliated by
unremitting injustice, by the systematic deprivation
of their rights, and by the arrogance of power of those
who possess unchallenged military might are ignored
or neglected by a seemingly uncaring world, terrorism
will not be overcome."
The drowning of 350 men, women and children on October
19th has riveted us all into a state of shock and revulsion
because of the callous dismissal of the tragedy, as
not being our problem, and we wish to express our sympathy
to the relatives of those who have borne such suffering.
The Aboriginal lawyer, Mick Dodson, on 31st October
2001 has complained about the current state of Australian
politics: "There seems to be a deliberate appeal
to the worst of the prejudices, bigotry and ignorance
of some. This is the politics of difference and intolerance.
The contest of ideas is nowhere to be seen."
It is a campaign that is elusive, almost sneaky on
the question of race. Xenophobic fear of the other is
being involved in the most despicable way as a rallying
call to security of national borders and nationalism
itself. Asylum seekers in boats have replaced indigenous
Australians as the scapegoats for this fear and hate.
Prejudice takes over from reason; humanity gives way
Our poorest Pacific neighbours are called upon to return
or accept favours in a makeshift solution to the desperation
of the desperate. Compassion and humanity take a back
seat, for we are told we have already been far too generous
and enough is enough. Small Pacific nations now need
that money and more to act as surrogates for our humanity
- our compassion - our concern.
Anyone can be a refugee. Boat people are ordinary men
and women, many of them urban professionals, who are
fleeing their countries because of war or persecution.
Nearly all refugees are genuine. 93% of Afghans and
97% of Iraqis are found to be legitimate asylum seekers.
Anyone who does not fulfill the criterion of having
a 'well founded fear of persecution' is sent back to
Boat people are not illegal. Under the UN Refugee Convention,
which has applied for fifty years, Australia has an
obligation to take in asylum seekers and assess their
They are in a totally different category from immigrants.
The real 'illegals' are the 14,000 Britons or Americans
caught each year for overstaying their visas. These
people are not put in detention centres.
There is no queue to jump. Australia has no embassy
in Iraq or Afghanistan for people to apply for a visa.
In overseas refugee camps there is frequently no resettlement
process available. Where one exists it is often ad hoc,
agonisingly slow and corrupt.
Australia receives very few asylum seekers compared
to other countries. Last year it received 4,174. Sweden
with about half our population, receives the same number
as Australia, Iran and Pakistan, two of the world's
poorest countries, each hosted over a million Afghan
No other country imprisons its asylum seekers. In Australia
they are placed indefinitely in detention centres in
harsh conditions without access to services. Canada
allows its asylum seekers to live in the community.
In Sweden they are allowed out of detention as soon
as they have gone through identification and criminal
Australia does not even fill its small quota of 12,000
refugees per annum. Not one of 400 allocated 'Women
at Risk' places has ever been filled.
Almost one in five people in detention centres is a
child. In Sweden the maximum time a child is kept in
custody is six days. In Australia we keep children in
60% of asylum seekers are victims of torture or severe
trauma. But in Australia they are treated like criminals
rather than ordinary people fleeing persecution.
Australia is now sending troops into Afghanistan. Many
of the boatpeople are fleeing the regime we are now
fighting and they deserve our protection. Iraqis, too,
are escaping the excesses of Saddam Hussein. Asylum
seekers see Australia as a safe and democratic country
in which they hope to have a far better future.
Remember the Snowy Mountains Scheme? After World War
II it was built largely with the labour of thousands
of refugees. Let us again give refugees a chance to
contribute to this country in the 21st century. Let's
give them a fair go!
Let us not be blind to the finest dictates of all religions.
Welcome the stranger.
"Continue to love each other like brothers (and
sisters) and remember always to welcome strangers, for
by doing this, some people have entertained angels unawares."
(Heb. 13, 1)
by Fr Ted Kennedy