Local Anglicans have joined the call for the evacuation of the refugee children on Nauru by Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, with a recent ecumenical vigil held and ongoing Cathedral bell ringing on Fridays, as well as a children’s choir recording event to be held at the Cathedral on Saturday.
The recent ecumenical vigil was held at St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Brisbane and was one of a series of related vigils held around the country, including in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth, and was organised by a coalition of groups, including Love Makes A Way, World Vision and Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.
Assistant Curate at St John’s Anglican Cathedral and vigil preacher The Rev’d Bronwyn Pagram said that it is important for Christians to speak up for the wellbeing of children on Nauru.
“Christians speak out of a narrative of God who knows and loves every woman, man and child…each person trapped on Nauru has infinite value and dignity,” The Rev’d Pagram said.
“God shows us how to direct our fear, guilt and anger, to say ‘enough!’ to politicians, and call to bring these vulnerable people to safety.”
The vigil was held in the evening on the same day that High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis told the media that the remaining children on Nauru would be brought to Australia by the end of the year, with Immigration Minister David Coleman not disputing reports.
ACSQ Justice Enabler and vigil organiser Peter Branjerdporn said that while vigilers welcomed the government’s apparent change of heart, they still called upon the nation’s political leaders to bring all children on Nauru to Australia by 20 November, a date set by the World Vision-led #KidsOffNauru campaign.
“We need our hearts to be broken by the injustices being done to refugee children on Nauru in our name, and through prayer, be empowered by the Spirit to continue to speak up for their transfer to a safe place by November 20,” Mr Branjerdporn said.
“While we gave thanks at the vigil for the government’s indications that all children on Nauru will be evacuated by the end of the year, we are still calling upon the government to evacuate all children by November 20, as every day that they remain offshore means another day of preventable misery, trauma, and potential death.”
The Rev’d Pagram and Mr Branjerdporn joined 150 other Christians at the vigil, including those from Catholic, Uniting Church, Baptist and Australian Christian Churches.
Among the other Anglican clergy who attended was Parish of Aspley-Albany Creek Rector The Rev’d Nicholas Whereat, who said that while he was inspired seeing Christians leaders speaking up together, their solidarity shone a light on the way the nation has neglected refugees on Nauru and Manus.
“For me it was good to see friends from the Third Order of St Francis, a colleague from my minister’s fellowship, as well as the Love Makes A Way team, and it is always good to see leaders of various Churches standing side by side on such an important issue,” Fr Nicholas said.
“However, the friendships and the solidarity only serve to heighten my grief at the way we as a nation treat human beings.”
At the vigil, participants prayerfully lit candles and floated them in salty water, symbolising the oceans people cross to seek safety and the salty tears they have shed while in offshore detention.
At the time of publication, 27 children remain on Nauru, down from 117 when the World Vision campaign was launched in August.
300 humanitarian, advocacy and faith organisations have officially joined the campaign, including a number of Anglican churches and organisations, both locally and nationally.
The campaign calls for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to evacuate all refugee children on Nauru to Australia by 20 November.
The campaign was launched in response to reports that large numbers of refugee children were experiencing severe psychological and physical impacts of offshore detention, including suicide attempts, self-harm and the rare ‘resignation syndrome’.
Most of the children on Nauru have been there for five years, with some having spent all of their lives there.
The Anglican Church passed motions earlier this year in support of the resettlement of refugees on Manus and Nauru.
In support of the call to evacuate refugee children from Nauru, St John’s Cathedral has been ringing the day bell at 12 noon each Friday, following the lead of the Altona Anglican Church in Melbourne’s West.
Anglican churches across the nation are participating in the #RefugeeBell initiative in support of the broader #KidsOffNauru campaign, with a bell tolling for each child remaining on the Pacific Island until Universal Children’s Day when the #KidsOffNauru campaigners plan to project ‘#KidsOffNauru’ and the faces of children seeking asylum on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.
The Anglican Dean of Brisbane The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt said that the bells help to give voice to the children remaining on Nauru and reminds us of the situation of those still held on the island.
“The bells speak for children whose voices are not otherwise heard and the sound helps to sharpen the awareness of our communities to the plight of those still detained,” Dr Catt said.
“The tolling inspires us to never give up on our detained brothers and sisters.”
St John’s Cathedral is also holding a 109-member children’s choir recording event this Saturday 17 November from 7.45am to 1pm in support of the children on Nauru.
The children will be recording an anthem called Bring Them Here at St John’s Cathedral under the guidance of Choirmaster Brian Martin.
More information here if you are under 16 and you are interested in being part of the choir.Jump to next article