Essay: From cultures of violence to ways of peace

From cultures of violence to ways of peace: reading the Benedictus in the context of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention

This is a revised version of a paper given at ‘Things That Make for Peace: Peace and Sacred Texts Conference’, hosted by School of Theology & Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University, at United Theological College, North Parramatta, 7–9 March 2018.

The author acknowledges the traditional owners of the Parramatta area: the Burramattagal people of the Darug nation, and pays her respects to the elders past, present and emerging, recognising their continuing connection with and custodianship of this place, especially the river.

In this essay I focus on Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in detention, particularly in those three weeks from 31 October 2017. The issue is not resolved, as recent reports of inadequate medical care—particularly in mental health—for detainees on Nauru and in the new facilities on Manus indicate (e.g. Davidson 2018a; Syed 2018). Since the forced transfer of the men, however, the Australian media has largely lost interest and even public Australian activism has died down, though there were rallies on Palm Sunday (25 March 2018) for refugees; on 1 March 2018 Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne launched a campaign to #changethepolicy; and between 16 and 22 July 2018 #FiveYearsTooMany rallies were held around Australia.

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Image: Protesters staged a sit-in outside the Dept. of Immigration in Melbourne on 4 February 2016 to show support for refugee facing deportation to offshore Refugee Processing Camps in Nauru.