April has been a big month for the world. The biggest for our faith of course being the incredible weekend of Easter – though as Matt has already reflected on this in his previous entry, I will reflect on other issues that are still inspired by the spirit of Easter: of sacrifice, of love, and of freedom.
A very thought-provoking and challenging month, April has led to many of the thoughts and tangents you read now. I was reading my friends blog and she raised some very challenging questions that I had felt but not been able to vocalise, and these questions inspired the following reflection. If you’d like to read her blog, Google ‘Erasing Apathy Wordpress’.
Just the other week we commemorated as a nation 100 years since our troops landed on Turkish soil at Gallipoli. No matter what is going on in your life, ANZAC Day is a day that is hard to ignore, especially this year. It has been all over the media, all over the streets, and has been a topic of conversation for many.
My Uncle has been in the army since I can remember, and he served six months in Afghanistan around 2006. So ANZAC Day means a lot to him, I remember going to the services with my family when I was younger, and even through high school I felt like a career in the army was certainly on the cards.
But then I realised what that actually meant.
As Christians, we are asked to live lives of love, in the steps of Jesus Christ. The idea of ordinary people sacrificing their lives for the freedom of our country, is sometimes aligned to Jesus sacrificing His life for the freedom of His people.
Whilst they share vaguely common themes, these two historic events are polar opposites. Jesus preached the Word of God – He preached love, and never violence.
Matthew 5:38-48: You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus’ ministry was all about resistance – but resistance without violence.
The soldiers at Gallipoli were fighting a violent war. That so many died for the freedom of our country is a tragedy, no one can deny that. Many innocent, precious lives were lost, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. Families were torn apart.
But it begs some important questions: why were their lives lost? What does it mean to be a free country?
When we think of a ‘free Australia’, what comes to mind? Do we think of things like wealth, prosperity, freedom of religion, freedom of choice? Whatever comes to mind, on ANZAC Day we tend to attribute this freedom to have been won through violence. And yet we rarely think about the everyday price at which this freedom comes.
Our current way of life stemmed from violence against the first peoples of this land – a tragedy that is still tearing Indigenous families apart from the continuing grief from generations of trauma, which bred issues that will continue to challenge the Indigenous populations for generations to come.
April 24 was Fashion Revolution Day (http://fashionrevolution.org/) – a day marking the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh, killing 1133 people, and yet we continue to buy clothes and items that were produced in sweatshops just like this one. We continue to exploit and oppress the world’s poorest – just because these systems are what make our ‘way of life’ possible.
This begs another challenging question: Can we rightfully call our way of life ‘freedom’, if it comes at the cost of oppressing so many other lives?
St Augustine was the first to coin the term ‘just war’. The Just War Theory is a tough one. It claims that violence is never ok, unless it is violence against our neighbour. Then violence, using arms if necessary, is ok.
My Uncle tells me we are in the middle of World War III. It can’t be officially called WWIII though because our current war is against an ideology, instead of a specific country or region. The Catholic Church has confirmed this war as a ‘Just War’ because of the atrocities performed by those who follow this ideology.
It’s almost like this confirmation by the Church has given some people permission to fear or condemn all Muslims, even in Australia. With the recent ‘Reclaim Australia’ rallies, born from fear and hatred, the organisers genuinely believed they were rallying for a free Australia. Of course I don’t at all condone the violence that occurred from those opposing the rallies either, both sides went about it the wrong way (although this does raise the question of the Just War Theory – is violence OK when it’s trying to stop violence against our neighbours? I still believe violence on any side is not OK. However does there come a time when non-violence transforms into approval?).
But these rallies again raise the question of what it means to be a ‘free Australia’. My heart broke when one of my closest friends, who happens to be a practicing Muslim, and a person who constantly challenges me to be a better person through the way she lives her life, and is a constant inspiration to the way I life out my Christian faith, asked me, “when did I become the monster?”
On the day of the Reclaim Australia rallies, she spent the day handing out flowers to random passers-by in the city of Adelaide.
“I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
What is this ‘free Australia’ these people are rallying for? Are they calling for a free Australia only for white middle-class non-Muslims? I understand that these people would prefer Australia to remain a democratic country that isn’t ruled by any one religion, but I’m not sure they thought about the way these rallies would impact the communities who also love a free Australia and also condemn the radical ideologies of a minority but yet still receive the hatred of many, and especially that which was projected at these rallies. At this time, Australia isn’t much of a free country for them.
April also saw the tragic execution of two Australians in Indonesia. I pray that they may now be with our Father in Heaven.
Australia’s reaction to this event mainly reflected that of a loving, forgiving country who recognised the mistakes of these men’s pasts, but believed that life was too precious to be taken away, especially considering the incredible rehabilitation that these two men underwent whilst in custody in Indonesia.
Our government says that it will continue to fight for human rights in condemning the death penalty around the world. And still a very pressing question remains: How do we determine what life is more precious than another?
When our government continues to hold innocent children who were never convicted of any crime in detention centres, recently sending a 5 year old diagnosed with PTSD back to Nauru, even after being accused of torture and going against human rights and international laws, I can’t help but feel our government’s response to human rights in Indonesia slightly confusing.
Our world and its people continue to be one of God’s greatest mysteries. Full of contradictions, of good and of evil, it’s hard to have an opinion on anything because we can never truly know the truth or the full story behind anything.
The most powerful thing we can do in life however, is just to love. Anything else complicates things. What if we forgot all of the politics, what if we forgot everything we are told we are meant to fear by the media, what if we changed our perspectives to live a life of love for all who come our way, no matter what?
Imagine if human nature became less ignorant of the feelings of others, if ‘freedom’ meant equality not oppression, and if every life was as valued as the next.
Perhaps we would be more aware of the hands who made our clothes, perhaps cruelty would not be an election winner, and perhaps we would look at our Indigenous brothers and sisters on the streets in a new light.
Perhaps on April 25 we would not only commemorate the almost 9,000 Australian soldiers who perished on that beach, but also the staggering 86,000 Turkish soldiers who died doing exactly as our soldiers were: following orders to protect the freedoms of their country which was being invaded by our soldiers.
How do we determine what life is more precious than another? What is the true Christian meaning of freedom? How can we live more in the non-violent footsteps of our Lord? Through the smallest acts of love, we can change our perspectives, we can change the world.