The latest copy of The Big Issue states that “more than 116 000 Australians don’t have a place to call home each night – and more than 8 000 of these people are sleeping rough”.
Indeed, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of rough sleepers in the doorways, parks, alleyways and on pavements in Perth’s CBD over the past year or so. Many of them depend on the charity of passers-by and/or charitable organisations for the wherewithal to continue living.
How can we be so hard-hearted to see these unfortunate human beings struggling to keep alive, whilst doing so little to help them, in what is claimed to be a nation built on Christian values?
That having been said, it is self-evident that whilst Christianity has impacted greatly on all aspects of Western democracies, their cultures are becoming increasingly secular, with increasing emphasis on individuals being masters of their own destiny with less empathy for those who do not conform and/or drop out of mainstream society.
As Gerald O’Collins SJ said in an address on ‘Jesus and the Homeless’ in 2010, Jesus spent most of his life as a homeless person. He was born in a stable and his crib was the eating trough for animals. Shortly after birth, he and his parents became refugees, fleeing to Egypt to get away from the murderous intent of King Herod.
Having returned to Israel, he grew up in a stable and loving home environment in Nazareth, where his father Joseph was a carpenter. However, once he was baptised by John, he became a homeless itinerant preacher telling those who listened about the immense power of God’s Love, and how it could rectify human and societal failings. Having gathered twelve like-minded disciples around him, they moved from locality to locality teaching people how to live their lives in concert with the Love and wishes of God our creator.
In the end, at the youthful age of 33, he died an extremely painful and lonely death on the cross at Calvary. The Gospels in the New Testament are full of his teachings with numerous references to the poor and homeless. Indeed, he told us to “love our neighbour as ourselves” and “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.
He also said “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth” (John 3:17-18).
In other words, isn’t it time to stop talking and to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to our homeless brothers and sisters.
Indeed, that is exactly what the Welsh Free Church is doing in partnership with the Perth Male Voice Choir. We will be holding a ‘Festival of Congregational Hymn Singing and Choral Items’ on Sunday 25 August, 2.30pm, at Uniting Church in the City Trinity Perth, in support of Uniting Church in the City’s Aid for the Homeless project.
Hopefully, we will attract a full house to this special event. Entry will be free, and ‘free-will offering’ will be dedicated to this very worthy project.
Emeritus Prof Odwyn Jones AO, President, Welsh Free Church