Why We Walk for Justice for Refugees on Palm Sunday

By Fr Andy Hamilton SJ

As we imagine the scene of Palm Sunday, we can’t miss the disconnection between what we see with our eyes and the high meaning it proclaims. We see a man seated precariously on a barrel-like ass, accompanied by a raggle-taggle group of bystanders waving green tree fronds, as he makes his way through the dust into town. What it means is that the King of Israel has arrived for his installation. This is dynastic history played as comedy.

This contrast between appearance and reality makes Palm Sunday the right day to remember people who have sought protection in Australia. They, too, have come to Australia in mockeries of boats and have tried to enter through its sea gates. They, too, have been captured on arrival and hung out in prisons in order to deter others.

As on the first Palm Sunday a handful of Catholics gather this year to march with others through their city streets. They hold banners insisting that these people are human beings like ourselves and demand respect. As they did on the first Palm Sunday and have done for many years bystanders will stop to watch for a minute or two and pass on, perhaps moved to reflection, perhaps dismissive of such puny challenges to a powerful State.

Yet, year by year the marches continue, gathering people who are still seeking protection, their relatives, people who are horrified at the callous treatment of our fellow human beings on Manus Island, in detention centres and in Australia, and the many Australians who weep that such things are being done in their name as citizens of Australia.

And the Christians who march continue to celebrate Palm Sunday, believing that Jesus’ way to life lay through suffering, torture and death to the exuberant life in which we share.  What began in the humanly comic scene on Palm Sunday and continued in the humanly serious and brutal business of Good Friday, has concluded in the divine comedy of Easter Sunday and its victory over the forces of death dealing.

That is why we at CAPSA join our fellow Australians in the Palm Sunday marches, praying that our fellow human beings will be freed from the living death imposed on them.


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