‘Enough is enough. All off Manus and Nauru in 2019’ was the theme of the Palm Sunday refugee rally held in Canberra on 14th April.
About 4,000 people attended the rally, joining tens of thousands at similar gatherings around Australia to seek just and humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers detained indefinitely on Manus Island and Nauru.
Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish man from Iran who has been held on Manus Island for nearly six years, was one of the speakers at the Canberra rally. His recent book No Friend but the Mountains, written by text messages smuggled out of Manus Island and transcribed in Australia, tells of the horrors of life in Australia’s detention centres. Unfortunately the Australian government will not allow Behrouz to set foot in Australia so he had to speak via video.
Behrouz’s pain and sadness were apparent in his eyes even before he spoke of the misery of life in Australia’s Manus Island detention centre where he could remain for the rest of his life – possibly 50 or 60 years.
Churches from all denominations were well represented at the rally with a number of clergy playing prominent roles.
The Reverend Katherine Rainger from Holy Covenant Anglican Parish in Jamison, spoke of the mental, physical and spiritual cost to Behrouz of speaking out against a system She encouraged all Australians to take up the mantle that Behrouz has laid down and to speak out against a horrendous system which has deprived thousands of people of their lives and liberty.
Diana Abdel Rahman from the Canberra Muslim community struggled to hold back tears as she reflected on the hatred and demonisation of minority groups which leads to violence such as recently seen in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Dr John Minns, Associate Professor in Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University, questioned who we are as a nation when racism, fear and cruelty are at the centre of the policies of our main political parties. He concluded on a note of confidence that we can overcome the cruelty and replace it with a spirit of generosity and humanity, that we can bring down the walls of false fear and prejudice, and then we can say with pride ‘this is who we are’.
A Chorus of Women led the crowd in singing a moving song to the wellknown tune Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The song concluded with the words:
‘Hear the hum of human kindness
Let it flow, sound the call
From the ripple sing a river,
Like the ocean let it roar.’
By Charles Body