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‘Don’t lock me up, I’m not a criminal;
You know that I have done no wrong.
I’m just a poor asylum seeker,
Won’t you listen to my song.’

These sad and haunting words were sung at an interdenominational service at Holy Covenant Anglican Church, Jamison, on Sunday 23 June to mark Refugee Week.

The speakers at the service were the Reverend Peter Malone (an aged care chaplain in our Diocese) and Ms Megan Watts (from Tuggeranong Uniting Church) who voiced their despair and anger that Australia continues to lock up innocent people on Manus Island and Nauru, with no prospect for some of them of ever bring released. Peter and Megan expressed their commitment to stand firm with Jesus in the struggle for justice, even in the face of criticism and intimidation.

But the speakers also celebrated the contribution refugees can make to Australia when they are given a chance. The theme for Refugee Week in 2019 is ‘Sharing a Meal; Sharing a Story’. Peter suggested that when Jesus shared the Last Supper with his friends and said ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he was not just talking about remembering the past. Jesus knew that he was about to face great suffering and that many of his followers would endure similar suffering, and he was encouraging them to remain strong in the certain promise of God’s future kingdom on earth. We can cling to this hope today on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are enduring unimaginable suffering in detention centres.

Following a time of prayer and reflection, candles were lit for the people still trapped on Manus Island and Nauru.

The idea of holding an interdenominational service during Refugee Week came from the Faith-Based Working Group of the Canberra Refugee Action Campaign and was readily embraced by the Rector of Holy Covenant parish, Archdeacon Wayne Brighton. Future activities by the Refugee Action Campaign can be found on the website refugeeaction.org.  

by Charles Body