An important and timely piece by Rev Andrew Dutney, President of the UCA on the ABC website.
Amnesty International has confirmed that conditions for asylum seekers that Australia has sent to Nauru are wretched. There is poor sanitation, inadequate accommodation, overcrowding, and the mental and physical health of detainees is deteriorating. Uncertainty and loss of hope breaks the hearts and spirits of people who have fled unimaginable circumstances in search of safety.
This kind of treatment is soul destroying. Not only does it crush the souls of detainees. It points to a sickness in the soul of the Australian nation.
Jesus said, “Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). As it happens, it also “sums up” the teaching of Confucius, the Buddha, the Prophet Mohammed and even Peter Singer’s version of utilitarianism. If you want to be your best self, to live in a healthy, fair community, to achieve the best outcomes for everyone involved in a particular situation, the consensus of the world’s wisest teachers is “do to others what you would have them do to you.” When it comes to the practicalities of attending to your soul, the Golden Rule or “principle of reciprocity” is the universally acknowledged measure. So, Australia, how is it going with your soul?
For twenty years, Australians have tolerated and rewarded the introduction of policy after policy that have served only to minimise our responsibility towards those asking for our compassion and protection. We have imprisoned asylum seekers exercising their right to seek freedom from persecution. We have sentenced children to a life behind barbed wire in remote and inhospitable locations. We have ignored international condemnation from organisations such as the UNHCR, while conceitedly pointing the finger of superior righteousness at other nations who are accused of violating the human rights of their citizenry. We have sniggered at the bizarre removal of Australia from its own migration zone. We have allowed a discourse dominated by hatred, racism and misunderstanding to infect our common vernacular. We have allowed people to talk about “illegals” knowing that there is nothing illegal about seeking asylum, and “queue jumpers” knowing that there is no queue to jump. We have allowed our hearts and the heart of our nation to be hardened against those who deserve our care.
Somehow it has come to suit us to treat this particular group of vulnerable “others” as we would never want to be treated ourselves. That’s what the opinion polls seem to say. And that is deeply disturbing. Measured against the Golden Rule, it points to a neglected, enfeebled, imperilled Australian soul.
Continue reading “The fear of others has corrupted the Australian soul“