Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Human One. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.’ (Luke 6:20-22)
I stood before my faith community holding my baby boy in my arms. Beside me was a Chin Burmese man and his son. We had gathered to give thanks for life and express our hopes, I for my child, and he for his. He had fled his country and made his way to Australia seeking asylum. Recognised as a refugee, he made a new life in Australia. Now he stood with his Australian-born child, expressing his love and his hopes for his son, as I did for mine. What stays with me is how our words echoed each other, and the sense of connection I felt with another father and another child.
Soon after this the Australian government made a sharp turn back to the politics of fear, turning on refugees, punishing those who committed no crime, incarcerating without process. Whole families. Fathers with hopes for their children instead saw their children’s lives destroyed. We were devastated.
We gathered at the Immigration Detention Centre. We were angry, sad, and confused. We expressed those things in our gathering. But then we worshipped. We worshipped the God of life, who welcomes all to the feast. We sang songs of hope and held candles. In the darkness I lit a fire staff. It twirled through my fingers and my body began to move, and the flames became a dance of hope.