Detainees

Jesus Is at the Border

I am not a politician, so I’m not an expert on immigration policies.

I am not an economist, so I’m not an expert on the economic benefits or burdens of immigration.

But I am a public theologian. I try to understand how we can participate with God in setting things right, healing the world, and reconciling human beings with one another, with the world, and with God.

Double Victory: 'Winning Over the Cops Who Had to Arrest Us'

Via Love Makes A Way, Flickr.com

Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers at MP Jamie Briggs' office, Via Love Makes A Way, Flickr.com

“We will not only win victory for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Four years ago I was working a corporate job for a national AFL team. It was well paid. I had great opportunities. Life was good. If you had told me that I was going to become a Christian, I would have laughed in your face. If you had gone on to say I would leave my well-paid job to spend my days running a Welcome Centre for refugees while working side jobs to make ends meet, I would have questioned your mental health. If you had added that I would be arrested with church leaders and a rabbi while continuing Martin Luther King’s work, it would have certified to me that you were crazy.

On Monday I walked into Austrailian MP Jamie Briggs' office to be arrested with seven Christian leaders and a rabbi. It sounds like the start of a joke. (My life is teaching me God has a great sense of humor.)

Why were we arrested? There are 983 children and their families currently in Australia’s detention centers.

These children are kids just like our own, with their made-up games, whispered jokes, and giggles. Their families dream of a future of safety. Our incoming Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, arrived by boat in Darwin seeking refuge 36 years ago, with “nothing but a suitcase filled with invisible dreams. A dream to live in a peaceful, safe and free country and to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.” In the past, Australia has been the kind of nation that grants dreams like this – why not for the 983 future Hieu Van Le’s and their families in detention?

A world away and so many years later, how is Martin Luther King’s freedom movement related to the current plight of asylum seekers in Australia? Well, the links are stronger than you think.

Nuns, Paddy Wagons, and the Dags Will Inherit The Earth

 via Love Makes A Way on Flickr

Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers, at Tony Abbott's Sydney office, via Love Makes A Way on Flickr.

On Monday a nun was arrested here in Australia. That’s right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest #LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centers. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.

It was a candid moment with the BBC. Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. ‘I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection’ he said. Malcolm is a team player, so he’s never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.

Reimagining What Is Possible: Welcoming the Stranger in Australia

Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Jarrod McKenna and Zopho, photo by Aaron Bunch, AFR

Editor's Note: The following story originally appeared HERE in The Australian Financial Review.

Jarrod McKenna is in trouble. It's not that the dreadlocked Christian activist is at risk of being arrested, as he has been at several anti-war and anti-coal protests. Rather, he has let five-year-old Congolese refugee Zephanta Baganizi eat the leftovers of our very late lunch, shortly before dinner time.

"Have you asked your mum if it's OK?" McKenna asks "Zopho," who is gazing at several pieces of bolani, a vegan flat-bread meal from Afghanistan. Transfixed by the food, Zopho doesn't respond.

"Just a small piece, then."

Zopho grabs the biggest piece. He runs off to his family's apartment, mouth overflowing with fried bread and vegetable filling.

"I'm in trouble," McKenna says.

The interaction between Australian, Congolese and Afghan food, people and culture is not uncommon at a large block at the end of Dudley Street in the outer Perth suburb of Midland.

It is the location of First Home Project; a former methamphetamine lab transformed into three apartments that provide medium-term accommodation at below-market rates for refugees transitioning into their new Australian lives.

Choosing Royal Babies Over Abu Ghraib

WILL OLIVER/AFP/Getty Images

A selection of British newspapers in London showing the new royal baby. WILL OLIVER/AFP/Getty Images

By now most of the world knows the royal family in England is celebrating the birth of little baby George Alexander Louis. The commentators panted as they caught the first glimpses of the magic baby, about everything from the infant's apparent ability to withstand a media onslaught to the ever-so-newsworthy fact that his father drove the family home with his own two hands.

Meanwhile in Iraq, several hundred prisoners of the infamous Abu Ghraib facility escaped, many of whom were known or suspected members of Al Qaeda. Considering the attention given to the few dozen detainees still held in Guantánamo Bay, it seems reasonable to think that such a breakout would arrest the headlines around the globe.

But instead, we stayed focused for the most part on baby George. I remarked about this to my friend, sharing my concern about the apparent distortion of priorities. He suggested that it simply is a sign of cultural fatigue, or even resignation. Sometimes, after all, these stories that have international importance seem so big, so abstract, and so far away that it is hard to wrap our minds around them. It’s easier instead to set our attention on something more hopeful — albeit remarkably more superficial — that won’t keep us awake at night.

Detained DREAMer Tells His Story From Behind Bars

Marco Saavedra. Image via TheNIYA.org.

Marco Saavedra. Image via TheNIYA.org.

Editor's Note: A recent news report recounted how activists with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance have placed themselves intentionally in deportation proceedings in order to enter the Broward Transitional Center, an immigration detention facility in Florida. They say they encountered scores of detainees who shouldn't be there under the Obama administration's revised deportation policies. What follows is a first-person account by one of the detainees, Marco Saavedra, a former intern at Sojourners.

I am glad the stories we are finding in this detention center are getting back to you all out there. My name is Marco Saavedra and recently I put myself into deportation proceedings hoping they'd bring me to the Broward Detention Center.

Despite being a DREAMer, the border patrol office I approached looking for a missing friend didn't think twice about detaining me. Little did they know they were doing exactly what we wanted, bringing us to this detention center filled with low-priority detainees.

No one deserves to be locked up like they are inside of this facility.

A Society That Doesn't Believe In The Family

http://youtu.be/XZrI35EmBRc

On November 3, "Shattered Families," a report on the status of U.S.-born children whose parents have been detained or deported by immigration agents reported that there are more than 5,000 American children who are in foster care and are unable to be reunited with their detained or deported parents.

Of course, this figure does not include children who have been left in the custody of relatives because their parents have been deported or detained by U.S. authorities. This situation has become increasingly problematic as the U.S. government has increased the number of deportations and detentions to record-breaking levels.

These children are U.S. citizens, so they cannot be deported. And yet the system is practically turning them into orphans.

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