Palm Sunday Call for Courage and Compassion
Palm Sunday Marches across Australia brought together thousands of people from all walks of life, united together in calling for a more just and compassionate response to refugees in this country.
Uniting Church members joined the marches in city streets across Australia along with other faith-based and community groups.
UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer spoke at the Palm Sunday Peace Walk which began at Victoria Square in Adelaide.
“This Palm Sunday we call for justice and dignity for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia,” Dr Palmer said.
“We know that Jesus himself was a refugee – his parents fled a violent regime to bring him as a child to safety.”
“God’s hope and vision that we see in Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, is for a more compassionate society, where every person who seeks refuge is treated fairly and feels welcome and safe.”
The rallies called for a number of specific changes to improve outcomes for refugees, including permanent visas for all refugees, timely and fair processing of claims, welfare and income support for those living in the community, releasing refugees from detention and an end to offshore processing.
Faith leaders were among speakers at the different events, as well as people with lived experience as refugees and seeking asylum. Some of the rallies included a focus on other justice issues including peace, racism, climate change and justice for First Nations peoples.
Here are some of the UCA members who attended events:
Rev Tara Curlewis, one of the speakers at the Sydney Justice for Refugees Rally at Belmore Park
“The first Palm Sunday was when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey from the Mount of Olives,” Rev Curlewis shared. “The crowd cried out, ‘Hosanna, Hosanna’, which means ‘please save, us, please deliver us,’. It is a cry that refugees around the world are making today, ‘please save us from detention, please deliver us from no residency’.”
“Over the years Palm Sunday has become a day when we reflect on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. Many have experienced persecution, many have received an unfair trial. Now, they turn to this nation for protection.”
“We call upon our Government to act with courage and compassion and to protect those seeking refuge in Australia.”
Rev Tony Goodluck, Northern Synod Moderator-elect, who joined those gathered outside the Mecure Hotel in Darwin, where people are held in detention
“On the day when we remember a humble man riding into Jerusalem on a colt, a donkey, as a protest against the imperial might and cruelty of the Empire, we gathered with palms along the fence-line, reminding those in detention that we stand with them.
And so we sang to these dear and heroic people, who have knocked on our door asking for shelter and help. We sang through the cyclone wire fence, with tears in our eyes.
There can be no lasting peace without freedom. We appeal to our political leaders, "Set them free. Set them free now. This cruelty is unacceptable and un-Australian.
Set them free and let them know that they are welcome here."
Rev Geoff Flynn, Minister, Wollongong Mission, who spoke at the Wollongong Palm Sunday Refugee Rally
"As I stand here I urge the good people of the Illawarra to be kinder. I don’t just mean the everyday kindness of putting out your neighbours bins - although I would hate to down play the importance of small acts. I also mean the strong, courageous, moral kindness of fighting for justice or sacrificing something for a fellow human being.
"I mean the hard work of self reflection and self improvement or to use the good old Christian word - repenting of my sins. That is the only path to challenging the ways we have been conditioned by our society to be cruel to certain groups of people such as refugees."
Rev Cheryl Wilson, Minister, Ascot Community Uniting Church, who attended the SA Walk for Peace
On Palm Sunday we remember and celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, surrounded by crowds of people who were seeking the coming of God's reign of peace and justice. Jesus' way of peace was not by imposition of force and power, but through sacrificial love and compassion. So too, we are called to show love, as we do what we can to embody peace in our lives, and work for justice in our world. The Palm Sunday Walk was a way of raising awareness of the plights of refugees, and other issues which are too often forgotten or ignored, such as climate change, and our relationships with First Nations people. I appreciated the coming together of people across many denominations, different faiths and advocacy groups. Together we affirmed the ongoing longing and vision for peace, reconciliation and renewal for all of creation.
Pictured: President Deidre Palmer speaks at the SA Walk for Peace
Annette Bryant, Star St Uniting Church, who attended the live webinar co-ordinated by Justice for Refugees WA
Our congregation has always felt a strong call to advocate for and stand with those who have been forgotten in our world. As a Christian I am challenged to stand with refugees who seek a life free from persecution.
I attended the rally to show my support for refugees that have been caught up in a cruel system. It is helpful to hear specific stories of those trapped in a heartless system as it allows me to better understand and advocate to my friends and the community about the need for change of Government policy.