Thursday, 11 October 2007

At Woomera; We Prayed

Today, the Cross and Icon of Our Lady stood across the highway, within eyesight, of the now closed Woomera Detention Centre. As fifty Australian young people, we also walked these icons through the dry desert heat to the cemetery that holds the remains of too many innocent lives. Prior to this we prayed amidst the towns rocket display that remembers a bustling United States military base and rocket launching range.

To know of tragedy in the treatment of people in the past is difficult, and in the case of the innocent babies and children that died, possibly affected by nuclear testing in the 60’s and 70’s is despairingly sad. I often wonder at events like this, why people did not know any better or act differently. To then know I have watched inhumane actions occur in the present, and not been able to act to cause any real change tears any sense of hope from deep within me.

At the cemetery we prayed, as a group and individually before the gravestones. We took the time to spend time at the side of many of the graves of children stillborn, a few days old, a few months and a few years old, praying, and then blessing the stones with holy water. We prayed through Mary, and we prayed holding the Cross horizontally while sitting on the rocky ground.

While standing in the cemetery, just before beginning the walk to the lookout over the detention centre, Fr Jim and Bishop Hurley re-counted the difficulties they had in gaining access to the centre and more specifically those suffering inside. They spoke of how the centre’s staff should also be respected and not judged for the work they undertook. We listened to the plight of individuals whose future they knew as unknown, we learned that two managed to escape and began to walk further into the desert not knowing which way respite lay, and we heard of the trials in getting proper legal aid for the asylum seekers to have their case heard and of the goodness in the hearts those who agreed to offer this assistance.

In reflection, I asked another priest of the diocese who has also spent much time visiting the detainees, if the Cross, as a great physical sign of hope, was too late with this message? He let me know his hope is that the Cross will help to keep raising awareness the way these people were treated was perhaps not just. It is hoped that with awareness, comes an ability to seek to remedy injustices and learn how not to repeat them in the future.

For the diocese of Port Pirie, it shows through the actions taken, they considered those detained as members of their parish. The consistent and constant effort by these priests, sisters and parishioners to show love to these asylum seekers is an example I look upon to encourage hope for effecting positive change in this world.

We also placed within this Cross of hope and healing, the great mystery of prayer. In the physical action of our prayer, we planted a tree, close to where the Cross stood tall. We watered the tree with the water from our drinking bottles providing nourishment to this sign of hope and new life. May the prayers that accompanied the visit of the Cross and Icon of Our Lady on this day, truly help the lives of those that experienced Australia’s detention centres

Jacs :)

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