A group of nine Christians staged a prayer vigil today in Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office in south Sydney. Five were arrested when they chose not to move on when requested by police.
Matt Anslow spoke to Eternity as he waited for his friends to be released. He had not been arrested, having been nominated as the group’s spokesperson and stepped out to do a radio interview. The rest, including First Home Project founder Jarrod McKenna, Jody Lightfoot, Justin Whelan and Jaxon Jennings and others were still being processed at the local police station in Miranda when Matt spoke to us. Other participants included photographer Kate Ausburn and Donna Mulhearn.
At 1pm, the group entered Scott Morrison’s local office, as a “non-violent act of civil disobedience in the form of a prayer vigil.”
“The aim was to pray about the asylum seeker issue in public, to draw attention to Australia’s cruel policies of indefinite detention,” said Matt. Scott Morrison was not in his office at the time, but the group stressed to his staff members that they meant no harm, and wanted to pray peacefully.
“We knew that some in Scott Morrison’s office, including Scott, are Christian and attend local churches. We invited them to join us in prayer as they wanted.” But the staff did not join.
The group prayed for two hours before they were interrupted by police and asked to leave.
“We committed ourselves to the Faith Leaders Affirmation, which talks about the kind of people we want to be, both as individuals and as a nation. We had a prayer of confession, recognizing that we ourselves are also complicit in our Government’s actions. We prayed a prayer of lament for the acts that have been done in this country, and a prayer of hope, reading through some of the verses at the end of Revelation which paints a picture of God’s new world that he will bring about, where there will be no tears or pain, but life in abundance.
But most importantly, says Matt, the group prayed for Scott Morrison.
“It’s our belief that love conquers hate. We certainly have no hate for Mr Morrison, we have no desire to vilify him in any way, or illicit hatred towards him. We understand how complex these issues are. But we wanted to pray for him and be people who are willing to support him.”
Matt points to Scott Morrison’s maiden Federal Parliament speech, where Mr Morrison painted “a vision of a nation that shows compassion and does justice for all people, including vulnerable people.”
“What we’re really doing is calling Scott back to the person we believe he actually is, to come back to that vision.”
The group is aware that there are many in the Christian community, and outside of it, who won’t understand the action they’ve taken today. But Matt says they’ve used Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr as inspiration. “If we just remain silent about these issues, and not do anything about it, God holds us accountable. As Christians, we have to speak out about these issues, even if it’s uncomfortable, even if it costs us something.”