March 09, 2017
If you could see the journey whole, you might never undertake it,
might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known
toward the place you known not.
Jan Richardson’s encouragement to ‘walk in hope’ through each step of our journey was the theme of last week’s gathering of the Josephite Justice Network. Her words for ‘ those who have far to travel on this way of hope’ were both affirming and challenging.
We listened and shared current issues around the first and last peoples of our land; the struggles to care for earth and those people pushed to the edges; the current situations facing us in the nuclear waste debate in South Australia; the call for a fair border between Timor Leste and Australia; the sufferings facing our brothers and sisters in West Papua, Nauru and Manus Island. Through it all we were supported and strengthened in our resolve to practise hope – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
This month calls us to hope in so many different ways.
Women and girls make up over half of our global population but comprise two thirds of the 1.4 billion who live in extreme poverty. International Women’s Day this year calls us to ‘be bold for change’. It invites us to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. It provides us with an opportunity as Josephites give thanks for all the women in our own communities, who have worked in often unknown but extraordinary ways and who have indeed been ‘bold for change’.
This year, the feast of Joseph, himself a refugee, reminds us in a special way of the plight of asylum seekers and the arrant disregard and often shamefaced treatment of desperate people who have fled to Australia for refuge.
The Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with other human rights groups around Australia have released a document outlining alternatives to Australia’s current asylum seeker Policies. At the national ‘Alternatives’ conference last week, speakers spoke of the need for hope. They described the ongoing dishonesty of Government rhetoric, the lack of compassion of many people (often caused by a widespread absence of accurate information), and the details of Australia’s disregard for the UN Convention on the Rights of The Refugee.
At the same time, speakers offered clear alternatives to current policies, and emphasised the importance of hope and the need to engage our communities and politicians in ongoing conversations about possible ways forward.
The two very specific alternatives have been named by the Human Rights Commission and call the Australian Government
This time of Lent encourages us to join with those suffering on Nauru and Manus Island to continue to pray and act for a change of spirit across our land.
Once again, and also in this same spirit, Josephite schools across Australia and New Zealand will combine on the feast of Joseph, to take action for asylum seekers. Each school will pray and initiate a specific action, urging the Government to show justice and compassion to those fleeing to this country for asylum. All who share in the charism of Mary MacKillop are invited to take part in an action for St Joseph’s Day.
The planning and developments at the JJAMM (Joseph, Julian and Mary MacKillop) gathering for young student leaders were exciting, and the initiatives have continued across the schools. We’ll keep you informed of developments.
All Australians are invited to join in this symbolic act on 25th March – this year celebrating 10 years – and to turn out all lights between 8.30 and 9.30 pm. Earth Hour was established to remind us of the beauty of earth and to shine a light on global warming. It has become the largest symbolic act of mass participation in the world, reaching 2 billion people in 2016. You are invited to join the vigil at North Sydney on this night, or to join in or hold your own community events, to celebrate together.
Each choice creates the path that will take you to the place where at last you will kneel.
Jan Barnett rsj
Image source: billmuehlenberg.com