Christian leaders across Australia are right now holding nationwide sit-ins inside the electoral offices of 7 Government politicians in 6 cities. In Perth, a sit-in prayer vigil is currently underway at the office of Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Included in the sit-in is two leaders from the Uniting Church in WA, Richard Telfer, First Third specialist, and Rev Bev Fabb chair of the Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership (CEDAL).
Today’s peaceful action of more than 50 church-goers is in response to reports that the Government is planning to send 25 babies — who were born on Australian soil to families seeking safety — to the Nauru detention centre. These Christian leaders come from the full breadth of the Australian church (including Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican and others).
The Christian leaders are committed to remaining in the MPs’ offices until the Government publicly promises that no children will be detained offshore, and that all asylum-seeker children will be released into the Australian community with their families. Sit-ins are occurring in the Sydney office of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, as well as 6 other Government representatives in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.
“Despite Mr Morrison’s claim that if his amendments to the Migration Act passed Parliament he would release all children from Australian detention centres, his very first act after the Bill was passed was to move 25 precious babies in preparation for sending them to offshore detention in Nauru,” said Love Makes a Way spokesperson Kate, Leaney. “This is not only cruel, it is a contradiction of the Immigration Minister’s own words.”
“We are here in part to pray and appeal to Mr Morrison that he, as a committed Christian, might have a change of heart and be true to his word. At Christmas, how can we celebrate the birth of Jesus who quickly became a refugee fleeing persecution and not speak out for these 25 babies whose families have also fled persecution?
“Today we call on the Government to make a public commitment that no child will be imprisoned offshore. Mr Morrison, these 25 babies born on Australian soil and the 167 children currently in Nauru must be released into the community with their families,” said Kate.
Pastor Alex McKellar, Riverview Church is a participant in the sit-in prayer vigil at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office today.
“I’ve witnessed first hand the damage that detention centres do to people. I can’t imagine how anyone could send innocent babies to Nauru where they will be denied basic care,” he said.
Father Chris Bedding, Anglican Priest is on site supporting the sit-in prayer vigil at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office.
“Last Friday I reached through the bars at a detention centre and blessed a beautiful baby girl. On Saturday she was loaded into a van and taken to Darwin. Her next stop is Nauru, and it breaks my heart,” he said.
Preparations to transfer the babies are reportedly underway despite a deal made between Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Senate crossbenchers that guaranteed children in Australian detention centres would be released.
In August, while facing an inquiry into child detention, Mr Morrison said: “Nobody, and especially nobody in this Government, wants to see children in detention if it can be avoided.”
Refugee and health experts, including from the UN, Amnesty International and the Australian Medical Association, have roundly condemned Australia’s detention regime. The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce referred to child detention as “state-sanctioned child abuse”.
Australian churches have been united in their opposition to the Government’s asylum-seeker policies, particularly child detention.
Today’s sit-ins are part of the ongoing Christian movement called ‘Love Makes a Way’. Since the first sit-in at Scott Morrison’s office in March this year, more than 100 Christian leaders have been peacefully arrested (and praised for their conduct by magistrates) as part of #LoveMakesAWay actions calling on the Government to adopt a compassionate approach to asylum-seekers.
To follow this story as it happens view their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LoveMakesAWayForAsylumSeekers.
Sit-ins are being held at the offices of:
- Adelaide: Jamie Briggs, Shop 1, 72 Gawler Street, Mount Barker
- Brisbane: George Brandis, 349 Sandgate Road, Albion
- Canberra: Zed Seselja, Shop B12, Canberra Centre, Bunda Street, Canberra
- Melbourne: Josh Frydenberg, 695 Burke Road, Camberwell
- Melbourne: Kelly O’Dwyer, Suite 1, 1343 Malvern Road, Malvern
- Perth: Julie Bishop, 414 Rokeby Road, Subiaco
- Sydney: Scott Morrison, Suite 102, Level 1, 30 The Kingsway, Cronulla