Braving the rain at Melbourne’s Palm Sunday Walk

19th April 2017

By Fr Andy Hamilton SJ

The Palm Sunday walk for refugees in Melbourne was held under threat of storms and a deluge. It was good weather for solidarity with people who came to seek our protection only to suffer so much at our hands.

The Catholic contingent gathered first to pray in St Patrick’s Cathedral in a service led by Fr Joe Caddy. At its end people formed a bulging circle for quiet prayer, joining the Circle of Silence held by CAPSA groups throughout Australia. Afterwards the group walked together down to the State Library with yellow and white papal banners, mixing with the blue of CAPSA and variegated colours of other banners, fluttering as at a medieval joust.

In the hour before the walk people mingled, children, grandparents, immigrants and people using wheelchairs, listening to moving speeches from community leaders, spokespersons for refugee groups and people who, after working with people detained on Nauru and Manus Island, had returned ashamed and committed to change.

Those joining the walk drew drawing strength from one another in their sympathy and fellow feeling with people who seek protection, and encouraged by the number, variety and energy of those whom they met. One young man, walking busily through the crowd to hand out leaflets was a student from New York. Horrified by the treatment of people who seek protection in Australia, he had formed his own small organisation committed to their cause. As the rain swept across the library square during the speeches the crowd turned into a mushroom crop of umbrellas.

Then the Walk began winding through the city streets, banners swaying, stretching between mostly sympathetic onlookers, leaving the participants encouraged and more determined in our commitment to make Australia a welcoming and hospitable place for refugees.