For Justice And Equity

Today is the day of the Zoom meeting of the Josephite Justice Network. We meet each month. Two years ago there was a face to face meeting twice in the year in Sydney. ‘All is changed, changed utterly’. Here we are now, watching each other’s faces on a screen with a patchwork of 21 small rectangles. We listen. We plan action. The people and the places we talk about are totally familiar. These are our people.

Covid is spreading in Peru, this place where community is so important. Still, there is reason to hope, Peruvians have suffered greatly before and are resilient. Our Sisters were there during the terror of Shining Path. The spirit of the people resists being quenched. In this new crisis we hear stories of people bonding together to help each other. Of course they would. I remember the laughter and the dancing and children learning. There is resilience once more. From New Zealand came similar stories of solidarity and community support in this Covid crisis, particularly among the Maori communities.

Mary, from Murray Bridge South Australia, has a nursing background and understands both the psychological and physical harm to young children who, from the age of 10, are being arrested and held in custody. She has compelling evidence of the irreversible damage that results from this. The South Australian Attorney General would co-operate if there can be an Australia-wide agreement to raise the age of criminal responsibility.. We in Australia will make a priority of this. We reflected that an overarching need in Australia is for an Integrity Commission. A campaign is growing in strength. We will support it.

From Melbourne we hear the distressing stories of refugees in hotel detention in despair so extreme that a hunger strike seemed to be their only solution. ‘Release us or Kill Us’ was their motto. At least two had to be hospitalised. My friend Dorothy Scott wrote, ‘We came together on Palm Sunday, gathering in front of a hotel in which refugees continue to be imprisoned. The windows had been deliberately tinted so all we could see inside was darkness. Despair descended upon us. Suddenly from a window high above, a few faint lights began to move slowly back and forth in an arc. Oh, the fragility of hope. The refugees were gently waving to us, using their mobile phones’.

Now, from Darwin, we hear of two young First Nations women planning a project to distribute packages of helpful and comforting goods for young rough-sleepers on the streets. The project will be theirs, but they are assured of the help they need to build the necessary structures and safeguards.

Participants from Victoria talked of the Yoo-rrook truth-telling process which will begin in July. It seeks to change how the history of Australia is viewed. The process will be a ‘deep self-reflection and investigation of atrocities … the horrific incidents that have caused great upheaval to our people and our lands and our waters, and still continue to impact our people today’.

The community I belong to, the Josephite Sisters and those of like mind, encourage each other to live and work among people who are marginalised and who suffer injustice. It is a call ‘to learn from them, to receive from them, to support them in their struggle for justice and equity’. This is the spirit that I have seen in many communities, in many traditions throughout the world. Billions of people throughout the ages have spent their lives joining in a struggle for justice and equity.