It’s election time. The polices and promises are rolling out as are the memes, sound bites, and social media rants. We are encouraged to have an opinion and to shout it loudly. We have a chance to engage with news articles, to throw out our opinions via Facebook and Instagram, to advocate to government, and to say a quick line or two to our neighbours. We don’t always do it well. This election time let’s use “living speech” – avoiding the “hurtful insult” or the “conversation stopper” and acknowledging that all people have been made in the image of God.
One issue that has once again gotten widespread attention since the passage of the Medivac bill is refugee and asylum seeker policy. This is not a post about government policy; it’s a reminder that right now in our churches we have refugees from all over the world. They have found comfort and family in our midst. Some of them have come to Christian faith and for many, this faith puts them at considerable risk in their home countries.
Late last year, I interviewed five Persian refugees at one of our NSW churches. Some of these refugees came to Australia as students and made a commitment to Christ. They said that being a part of a church was like being in a big family. Only many of them can’t talk about this church family to their families in Iran. If their refugee status is denied or their Temporary Protection Visa’s (TPV’s) not extended and they return to Iran, they can be thrown in prison, denied work or even accused of being spies.
Some of the men and women I interviewed came by boat. *James’ boat capsized off the coast of Darwin where people floated in the water for four hours thinking they were going to drown or be eaten by a shark. They were rescued by the Australian navy and sent to the Christmas Island Detention centre. Some of them were resettled on TPV’s.
Once in Australia, James* started to go to church. Being raised a strict Muslim, he was afraid of Christianity. It was in Australia though, that he realised his fears about Christianity were unfounded. The Christians he met were kind and honest and wanted to help him. He chose to become a follower of Christ.
One man, *Max, loves to tell everyone about Jesus. He was raised in a devout Muslim home but in Australia a friend told him about Jesus and gave him a Persian Bible. He became a Christian. His fiancée left Iran with her children because of an abusive husband. Iran does not have the same kind of support for domestic violence victims as Australia does and she knows that if she were to return, the government could take her children away from her and give them to her husband. The week I visited the church they attend, she was baptised as she too wanted to become a follower of Christ.
As we engage with policies and opinions this election round, let’s remember some of these stories of those worshipping alongside us in our churches, living next to us in our neighbourhoods and seeking to stay safely in our country. Let’s engage in “living speech”.
Inazu, J.D. 2016. “Confident Pluralism.” Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.