‘In this Together’

For the past eight years I have taught Criminal Law to first year law students, and throughout the unit we explore the complex reasons for the over-representations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) peoples in the Australian criminal justice system.  At the commencement of the university semester students respond with typical stereotypical beliefs about the causes of this overrepresentation, these include: a perception that ATSI communities are inherently dysfunctional; ATSI people are prone to drinking and substance abuse; and ATSI communities are welfare dependent and unwilling to get out of the cycle of poverty.  
Over the course of the fourteen weeks we challenge these stereotypes by exploring the criminogenic effects of colonisation and past brutal discriminatory policies; in particular, the stolen generation.  We question whether the dismantling of colonisation and past discriminatory policy has eradicated deeply entrenched institutional racism, and how this continues to adversely impact on the material conditions and life chances of ATSI peoples.  We examine in detail the findings of the 1990 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RIADIC) and follow the tragic life trajectory of Malcom Smith a child of the stolen generation, and one of the ninety-nine deaths in custody investigated by the RCIADIC. We read numerous cases of subsequent deaths in custody, which still continue to frequently occur even 30 years after RCIADIC handed down its findings, and discover a continued failure by authorities to follow the recommendations. We explore the ubiquity of discretion throughout the criminal justice process, from policing to judicial sentencing, which has time and time again resulted in the over policing of certain offences in ATSI communities and the frequent handing down of maximum penalties at sentencing.  The incident captured on video a few days ago showing excessive use of force by a police officer against a young ATSI teenager in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, is an example of the how frequently ATSI people are charged and prosecuted for public order offences. At the completion of the semester there is satisfaction in knowing that many of the students, who when they complete their studies will become legal practitioners, policy advisors and possibly judicial officers, have developed a greater empathy and understanding for the plight of ATSI peoples.  It is the dismantling of these stereotypes and prejudices that I believe leads to the most profound change.
 
The death in custody of Rebecca Maher disturbingly shows how stereotyping that we may think is harmless, can have unintended and fatal consequences. Rebecca, aged 36 and a proud Wiradjuri woman, was detained by police at Maitland Police Station in NSW on 19 July 2016.  She was brought into the police station as an intoxicated person, and from CCTV footage she is seen in the police charge room to be stumbling, incoherent and having difficulties breathing.  There was no indication that her intoxication was caused by alcohol consumption.  Rebecca died about five hours later in a police cell as result of a drug toxicity, with fatal levels of the of drugs prescribed for her anxiety, as well as methadone which she had been using to deal with a heroin addiction.  The Coronial Inquest heard evidence that the police officers involved did not search Rebecca because they feared she was carrying an infectious disease, a fear which was unfounded. The Acting Coroner held that if the police officers had conducted a simple pat down search, it was likely they would have found the pill bottles in her leg pockets and this would have alerted them to the cause of her intoxication and the need to call an ambulance. The inquest also heard evidence that prior to being put into the police cell, officers rejected her request for food, another breach under the legislation which requires intoxicated persons in custody be provided with sustenance.  Evidence was also submitted showing one of the officers in the charge room mimicking Rebecca’s stumbling as the behaviour of a chimpanzee.  At 1.34 a.m, CCTV footage in the cell shows Rebecca leaned on the mattress, lay down on her right side with her back to the CCTV camera.  Her right arm was above her head and her knees were tucked up slightly.  She remained in this position until she was found dead at 5.51a.m in the morning.  The Acting Coroner found that police officers failed to follow procedure by conducting appropriate checks of the cell and incorrectly detained Rebecca under the legislation which required an incoherent person be given a reasonable opportunity to contact a responsible person.  No recommendation was made to lay criminal charges against the police officers involved.  Her tragic death could have easily been prevented had she been treated with dignity.
 
In conversations with friends and parishioners I often come across this kind of stereotyping and a perception that ATSI offenders should be harshly prosecuted for their offending These are people who have lovingly dedicated their lives to their families and serving the Church, and as migrants have often overcome prejudice to prove themselves as valued members of the Australian community; however, they cannot see how misguided and detrimental their attitudes can be. Unlike the students I teach over course of the semester, there is not the benefit of exploring these complex and difficult issues, and I am not sure even then, their views can be dissuaded.  However, Scripture is our best teacher. We read Jesus conversing with those who others consider unclean, sinners and marginalised.  He challenges the legalism and hypocrisy of religious leaders and the disciples who believe that the people Jesus interacts with are not worthy of God’s love and care.  He tells them that their lives matter, and in doing so, we witness new possibilities and the transformation that such love can bring. So, as Reconciliation Week comes to a close, may St Maria of Paris’ reflection on the Last Judgement fill us with awe:

The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Savior says ‘I’: ‘I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.’ To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need. . . . I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews. It fills me with awe.

Monica Ibrahim

Sorry Day

We feel deep gratitude and blessings that our young sisters and neighbours are proud Australian Indigenous women of the Wiradjuri Nation. They also share with us as sisters in the Maronite Church and are part of our Maronite Parish community. Today in Australia is Sorry Day and they share this lovely reflection with us. 

‘I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

    I will guide them and restore comfort’ Isaiah 57:18

National Sorry Day has been held every 26 May since 1998. This day acknowledges the many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families due to the policies of past governments and the step towards reconciliation for our First Nations’ people. 

These children, who are known as the Stolen Generations, have suffered untold hardship. The past still impacts us today, in the continuing devastation of the lives of Indigenous Australians due to the permanent scarring of these policies. Although we can’t change the past, we can address the past by listening as a community with open minds, to commemorate those affected and listen to their stories in order to reconcile.

As Catholics and as Maronite’s we are called to share in the process of Reconciliation in accordance with the values and mission of the Church. In the Social Justice Statement for 2006 “The Heart of our Country: Dignity and Justice for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters”, the Australian Bishops identified the areas where Australian Catholics are called to reach out to the Indigenous community. They call us to ensure the preservation of Indigenous cultures and to keep working for an inclusive multicultural Australia. To accept the rich Indigenous culture, traditions and values that align with those of Jesus and all his people. To learn to restore and care for the environment through the Indigenous knowledge.

Today on 26 May we ask you join with us to pray as a Maronite and Catholic community in Australia for the continued path of Reconciliation and for all indigenous communities throughout the world :

Holy Father, God of Love 

We thank you for the survival of Indigenous cultures. 

Our hope is in you because your son Jesus Christ came to reconcile the world to you. 

Teach us to respect all cultures. 

Help us to bring about spiritual and social change.

Amen


Written by Kristen and Paige

Dead are my People

Dead are my People

Dead are my people, gone are my people, but I exist yet, lamenting them in my solitude. Dead are my friends, and in their death my life is naught but great disaster. The knolls of my country are submerged by tears and blood, for my people and my beloved are gone, and I am here living as I did when my people and my beloved were enjoying life and the bounty of life, and when the hills of my country were blessed and engulfed by the light of the sun.

My people died from hunger, and he who did not perish from starvation was butchered with the sword; and I am here in this distant land, roaming amongst a joyful people who sleep upon soft beds, and smile at the days while the days smile upon them.

My people died a painful and shameful death, and here am I living in plenty and in peace. This is deep tragedy ever enacted upon the stage of my heart; few would care to witness this drama, for my people are as birds with broken wings, left behind the flock.

If I were hungry and living amid my famished people, and persecuted among my oppressed countrymen, the burden of the black days would be lighter upon my restless dreams, and the obscurity of the night would be less dark before my hollow eyes and my crying heart and my wounded soul. For he who shares with his people their sorrow and agony will feel a supreme comfort created only by suffering in sacrifice. And he will be at peace with himself when he dies innocent with his fellow innocents.

But I am not living with my hungry and persecuted people who are walking in the procession of death toward martyrdom. I am here beyond the broad seas living in the shadow of tranquillity, and in the sunshine of peace. I am afar from the pitiful arena and the distressed, and cannot be proud of ought, not even of my own tears.

What can an exiled son do for his starving people, and of what value unto them is the lamentation of an absent poet?

Were I an ear of corn grown in the earth of my country, the hungry child would pluck me and remove with my kernels the hand of Death form his soul. Were I a ripe fruit in the gardens of my country, the starving women would gather me and sustain life. Were I a bird flying the sky of my country, my hungry brother would hunt me and remove with the flesh of my body the shadow of the grave from his body. But, alas! I am not an ear of corn grown in the plains of Syria, nor a ripe fruit in the valleys of Lebanon; this is my disaster, and this is my mute calamity which brings humiliation before my soul and before the phantoms of the night. This is the painful tragedy which tightens my tongue and pinions my arms and arrests me usurped of power and of will and of action. This is the curse burned upon my forehead before God and man.

And oftentimes they say unto me, the disaster of your country is but naught to calamity of the world, and the tears and blood shed by your people are as nothing to the rivers of blood and tears pouring each day and night in the valleys and plains of the earth.”

Yes, but the death of my people is a silent accusation; it is a crime conceived by the heads of the unseen serpents. it is a sceneless tragedy. And if my people had attacked the despots and oppressors and died rebels, I would have said, “Dying for freedom is nobler than living in the shadow of weak submission, for he who embraces death with the sword of Truth in his hand will eternalize with the Eternity of Truth, for Life is weaker than Death and Death is weaker than Truth.

If my nation had partaken in the war of all nations and had died in the field of battle, I would say that the raging tempest had broken with its might the green branches; and strong death under the canopy of the tempest is nobler than slow perishment in the arms of senility. But there was no rescue from the closing jaws. My people dropped and wept with the crying angels.

If an earthquake had torn my country asunder and the earth had engulfed my people into its bosom, I would have said, “A great and mysterious law has been moved by the will of divine force, and it would be pure madness if we frail mortals endeavoured to probe its deep secrets.” But my people did not die as rebels; they were not killed in the field of battle; nor did the earthquake shatter my country and subdue them. Death was their only rescuer, and starvation their only spoils.

My people died on the cross. They died while their hands stretched toward the East and West, while the remnants of their eyes stared at the blackness of the firmament. They died silently, for humanity had closed its ears to their cry. They died because they did not befriend their enemy. They died because they loved their neighbours. They died because they placed trust in all humanity. They died because they did not oppress the oppressors. They died because they were the crushed flowers, and not the crushing feet. They died because they were peace makers. They perished from hunger in a land rich with milk and honey. They died because monsters of hell arose and destroyed all that their fields grew, and devoured the last provisions in their bins. They died because the vipers and sons of vipers spat out poison into the space where the Holy Cedars and the roses and the jasmine breathe their fragrance.

My people and your people, my Syrian Brothers, are dead. What can be done for those who are dying? Our lamentations will not satisfy their hunger, and our tears will not quench their thirst; what can we do to save them between the iron paws of hunger? My brother, the kindness which compels you to give a part of your life to any human who is in the shadow of losing his life is the only virtue which makes you worthy of the light of day and the peace of the night. Remember, my brother, that the coin which you drop into the withered hand stretching toward you is the only golden chain that binds your rich heart to the loving heart of God.

Gibran Khalil Gibran

A Night in Gethsemane with Jesus

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 22,1-23. 

The festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near.
The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve;
he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.
They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money.
So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’
They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’
‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters
and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ “
He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’
So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.
He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.
For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’
Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

Reflection:

Jesus you knew your fate, you sat with your disciples and taught them humility and how to spread the Gospel when you were gone. 

You introduced a new Passover, replacing it with the Mystery of the Eucharist, so that it is not a lamb that is sacrificed as was done for Passover but now, Jesus is the new lamb, sacrificed for our sins.

You ate the Passover lamb with them, so that you yourself might become our Passover and our Lamb.” (Prayer of forgiveness)-

 “Let us raise glory, honour, and praise to the Lamb of God, who voluntarily became the Paschal Lamb and offered himself as a redeeming sacrifice. He truly gave us his Body as food and his Blood as drink, as a pledge of eternal life.” (Prayer of Forgiveness)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

The Passover Lamb and the Exodus (Exodus 12,14) Ephrem, Hymns on Unleavened Bread

  1. In Egypt the Passover lamb was slain;
    in Sion the True Lamb was slaughtered. (Exodus 12:6)

    Refrain: (repeat after every verse) Praise to the Son, the Lord of symbols who fulfilled every symbol at His crucifixion.

  2. My brethren, let us consider the two lambs,
    Let us see where they bear resemblance and where they differ.
  3. Let us weigh and compare their achievements:
    of the lamb that was the symbol, and the Lamb that is the Truth.
  4. Let us look upon the symbol as a shadow, 
    let us look upon the Truth as the fulfilment.
  5. Listen to the simple symbols that concern that Passover,
    And to the double achievements of this our Passover. 
  6. So with the True Lamb there took place for the Gentiles
    An Exodus from error, and not an entry.
  7. With the Living Lamb there was a further Exodus, too,
    For the dead from the Sheol, as from Egypt.
  8. For in Egypt a pair of Symbols are depicted, since it reflects both Sheol and Error.
  9. With the Passover lamb, Egypt’s greed
    learnt to give back, against its wont;
  10. With the Living Lamb, Sheol’s hunger
    disgorged and gave over the dead, against its nature\
  11. With the true Lamb, greedy Error
    Rejected and cast up the Gentiles who were saved;
  12. With that Passover lamb, pharaoh returned the Jewish people,
    Whom, like death, he had held back.

With the Living Lamb, Death has returned
The just who left their graves.  (Matthew 27:52)

With the Passover Lamb, Egypt was breached,
And a path stretched out before the Hebrews.

Meditation:

Spend time thinking about what you just read, think about the two lambs and the typology you noticed. 

Read the Hymn a second time and highlight anything that stands out to you

Spend time reflecting on what stood out to you, and why you think it stood out for you.

Matthew 26:36-46

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Spend time in prayer with Jesus as he faces his destiny. Thank him for becoming the new Lamb, and becoming a sacrifice for our sins.

Has there been a time when you have been fearful? Ask Jesus to assist you to ‘drink from your cup’.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be


 

Christina Maksisi

Activities for Hosanna Sunday

Download these activities for the family on Hosanna Sunday.

Responding to Institutional Abuse

Certain allegations have emerged about abuse within Mission De Vie which is under the auspice of the Maronite Church in Lebanon. We are in no position to know the truth of any of those allegations and can’t comment on them.  However, experiences from around the world have demonstrated how sinister abuse in institutions can be.  In many parts of the world the Catholic Church is still dealing with the devastation amongst many of the religious orders and institutions in which these crimes have been committed. There have been a number of important lessons that have been learnt from situations in other countries which have uncovered institutional abuse against children and others forms of abuse around the world that we think are useful to be reminded about now.

  1. As a Church we must demand the highest standards of ourselves, especially when it comes to child protection. We must take complaints seriously and ensure the highest regulations of ourselves. We must also submit to the independent regulations which have been put in place for the protection of children in the civil societies we live in. Abuse does happen in the Church and it is unacceptable
  2. Voices calling out abuse must be supported, and we must demand they be heard. Natural justice, investigation and transparency are essential to uncovering the truth. Political interference in the judicial process and trial by media must be avoided. The media in particular must be careful in reporting witness testimony before it has been given in court and before investigations are concluded so as not to taint evidence or cause the victim further pain. We must remember that everyone deserves the right to due process and natural justice, including those accused. That is fundamental to uncovering the truth and protecting victims, and potential victims. Due process also requires that the judiciary is free from political and other influences and corruption. We accept that things become difficult when the allegations involve people of high profile and when the media and others are ready to decide cases even before the law has. Legislators must refrain from interfering with any process before investigations are concluded.
  1. What matters is the truth and it matters beyond reputations, including the reputation of the Church. Investigations of institutionalised abuse have revealed that so often the abuse continued because victims, especially children were not heard, because those that knew about the abuse remained silent, because those who reported it were not believed or because complaints were never investigated. Even more often, it was because people in power were more concerned about their own reputation and the reputation of the institution or the Church, than concerned with doing what was right and protecting children or victims.
  1. Abuse, especially at the hands of those in positions in power is nothing new and is not confined to the walls of the Church. Institutions are susceptible to it for all sorts of reasons which we are now learning about. It is made even worse in those developing countries that lack regulations or where there is lack of enforcement or where institutions are closely aligned to the political or judicial system and can influence it. It is also shocking, for some beyond belief and it challenges everything they have ever trusted. For the faithful, it is a huge betrayal and it takes time to process. Education is key.
  1. We must avoid defensiveness and the rhetoric of defensiveness. To the amazement of many, sometimes even ourselves, we stay in our Church, even when we are surrounded by the stench that is overwhelming us. We believe the Church and our spiritual lives transcend beyond the stench and beyond the actions of individuals. The collateral damage is the people who leave the Church because of the deep sense of disgust and betrayal they feel and we don’t judge them for that. But for those of us that remain in the Church, this is no time to remain silent. Avoid seeing things as an attack or a persecution of the Church. Rather anything that reveals the truth in fairness and in process must be welcomed. We must demand it before anyone, because that is what Christ demands of us – to protect those who cannot protect themselves and be a voice for those who are not heard and are hurt or marginalised.
  1. Today we pray for all those who have experienced sexual abuse, especially by those in positions of power in our own Church. We pray for all those who have to endure the consequences of it in fear and we pray, in this season of the Birth of Our Lord, we pray that the infant babe will protect all children.

Amen


Warning:

We understand that some readers may themselves have experienced sexual assault.
Be careful about disclosing your experience on social media. Others may not understand the issue causing you further distress. If this article causes you distress seek help from a rape or abuse service provider in your area.