Light the Dark Vigil for Asylum Seekers

Another day, another death, another disaster. More bad news. It sounds horrible and pessimistic, but there is some truth in it. Earlier in the week, I uploaded a picture on Facebook and Twitter that read: Believe there is good in the world. The letters ‘be – the – good’ were highlighted. I really liked the image because while it said on one level, that we ought to believe and keep on believing that there is good in the world, there is the other incentive that in believing in this goodness, we ought also to embody the good.

KEEPING-COMPANY.COM | FCJ Spirituality, Mission and Identity

GetUp! Australia has called for Australians to hold a candlelight vigil for all asylum seekers, in the memory of 23-year-old asylum seeker, Reza Berati who died during the week under Australian care. As well as lighting a candle for Reza and those who suffer from the atrocities that are results of unfair governmental policy, the vigil will also symbolise the need for truth and transparency on this human rights and life issue.

Image credit: GetUp! Australia

Fr Bob Maguire has expressed in an email:

This morning, new reports have emerged from an Australian guard working for security contractor G4S, that local guards working for the company were in a frenzy and jumped on Reza’s head in a rage on Monday night, inside the detention compound. Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, now admits his initial information was wrong – that in fact most of the violence that happened on Manus occurred inside the Australian-run detention facility. Some people inside the centre say asylum seekers were attacked. The truth is we don’t yet know, because we’re being kept in the dark and journalists aren’t being allowed in to shine a light on what really happened. What we do know is that a young man named Reza came to Australia from Iran seeking our protection. Instead he was brutally killed. (via GetUp)

As an Australian, I am appalled that asylum seekers – that people – like Reza, are being treated so unjustly in detention. Moreover, as a Christian and practising Catholic, I am especially moved to do something (small though it may be) for a greater cause.

A few weeks ago, I posted a gospel reflection on being salt of the earth:

You are salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. | Matthew 5:13-15

Tonight’s vigil is a fine example in which we can show our worth, our value and our confidence, by living out the command to be “light of the world”. I believe in the power of an individual act of kindness and compassion that can change an entire group. I also believe in the importance of my being Catholic, not because Catholics or Christians are the only ones who care, or ought to show they care, but because this kind of movement is at the heart of the gospel.

In today’s Sunday liturgy, the readings speak loudly and clearly on loving one’s neighbour and on being holy as God is holy. Psalm 103 reads:

As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.

So too, we are called to be compassionate people, not just to our friends or those we know or deem ‘safe’, but to all “as far as the east is from the west…”

If you cannot make it to Federation Square tonight 23 February 2014 from 8pm for the #LighttheDark vigil, please remember us in your thoughts and prayers – for the cause, for the supporters and for those who need a sign of hope. The adage is true: it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Or to adapt another phrase: many hands make lights work. Be a light for someone today, do not curse the darkness and in this, be compassionate and holy as God is.

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