Saturday, September 22, 2018

Jean Vanier's '10 rules for life to become more human'

'I’m just somebody who was born ninety years ago and will die in a few years time and then everybody will have forgotten me. This is reality'
Jean Vanier, the Canadian philosopher and theologian and the founder of L'Arche communities, turned ninety this week.
To commemorate the occasion he released a YouTube video laying out his “ten rules for life to become more human” by sharing his thoughts on life and on growing older. He speaks about success, vulnerability, listening, fear and love. 
1. Accept the reality of your body
Vanier says, “For a man to become a man he has to be at ease with his body. That body is fragile, like all bodies. We are born in weakness (as a little child); we will die in weakness. And when we get to a certain age – ninety – we begin to get weaker.” He adds, “I have to accept that I’m ninety. I’m not fifty, or forty, or thirty.”
2. Talk about your emotions and difficulties
He acknowledges that men in particular “have difficulty expressing their emotions.”
3. Don’t be afraid of not being successful
Vanier adds, “you have to discover you are beautiful as you are” regardless of whether or not you are successful.
4. In a relationship, take the time to ask “How are you?”
“Has he married his success in work, or has he married his wife? What is the most important? Is it to grow up the ladder in promotion?” asks Vanier.
5. Stop looking at your phone. Be present!
To young people he says, “You are people of communication.” But then he asks, “Are you people of presence? Are you able to listen?” "To be human is to know how to relate," he adds. 
6. Ask people “What is your story?”
Vanier emphasises the importance of relating to people and listening to them. He says, “To meet is to listen: Tell me your story? Tell me where your pain is? Tell me where your heart is? What are the things you desire?” He adds, “I need to listen to you because your story is different to my story.”
7. Be aware of your own story
“You are precious. You have your ideas: political, religious, non-religious, you have your vision for the world. Your vision for yourself,” says Vanier. He acknowledges that when we fear our identities, worldviews, and cherished opinions are being taken away from us we are liable to become angry. He adds, “we have to discover where our fears are because that is the fundamental problem.” He asks, “Maybe in your story there is a story about fear?”
8. Stop prejudice: meet people
Vanier says, “The big thing about being human is to meet people.” We need to “meet people who are different” and “discover that the other person is beautiful.”
9. Listen to your deepest desire and listen to it
Vanier says, “We are very different from birds and dogs. Animals are very different.” He says that unlike with animals there is a “sort of cry of the infinite within us. We’re not satisfied with the finite.” He asks, “Where is your greatest desire?”
10. Remember that you'll die one day 
“I’m not the one who’s the king of the world and I’m certainly not God,” says Vanier. “I’m just somebody who was born ninety years ago and will die in a few years time and then everybody will have forgotten me. This is reality. We’re all here, but we are just local people, passengers in a journey. We get into the train, we get out of the train, the train goes on.”

Vanier set up his first L'Arche community in 1964 by welcoming two mentally disabled men into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil in France. Today, L’Arche has grown into an international organisation of 147 communities in 35 countries. Its aim is to create homes, programs and support networks with and for people who have developmental disabilities.
Vanier, the author of over 30 books, suffered a heart-attack in late 2017. He is said to have been resting in his home in France.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Brisbane Prayer Vigil - Aboriginal Deaths in Custody


Brisbane Prayer Vigil - Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

 · Hosted by Common Grace
This Wednesday, Brooke Prentis is calling us to gather and pray in our capital cities for Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Aboriginal deaths in custody have been researched, and reported, since 1980. In 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report. This Royal Commission investigated 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody from 1980 to 1991. Since 1991 there had been an additional 407 Aboriginal deaths in custody. In the last week we added another three to this total, taking it to now 510 Aboriginal lives lost in custody.

The devastation is that the 1991 Royal Commission produced 339 recommendations – only a handful have ever been implemented. How many deaths could have been prevented, how many lives protected, if all the recommendations had been implemented?

There is much more to be said on this issue, and in the coming weeks and months we will calling the church to action. But right now, we need to gather together in our cities, and pray breakthrough and justice for Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Message from the global conference against xenophobia: human beings are equal in dignity

Message from the global conference against xenophobia: human beings are equal in dignity
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/WCC
19 September 2018
Participants at the conference “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” released a message on 19 September that affirms and upholds the institution of asylum for those fleeing from war, persecution or natural disaster, and invokes respect for the rights for all people on the move.
The conference, held in Rome, was organized jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
“Conscious of a rise in xenophobic and racist reactions to refugees and migrants, we have striven to describe, analyze, understand and address the exclusion, marginalization, stigmatization and criminalization of migrants and refugees, and the justifications for these attitudes and discourses which now exist in several different parts of the world, even within the churches,” reads the message.
The message also acknowledges that migration – the movement of people – is an inherent feature of the human condition. “It belongs to the whole history of humanity - past, present and future - and the entire biblical narrative,” reads the message.
Conference participants acknowledged that recent drivers of forced displacement and migration have included unresolved brutal conflicts and the lingering consequences of global economic crisis and austerity policies, as well as other root causes such as extreme poverty, food insecurity, lack of opportunity, and insecurity.
“The churches and all Christians have the mission to proclaim that every human being is worthy of respect and protection,” the message reads. “The churches are also called to live out, on a daily basis, the welcome of the stranger but also the protection and the mutual encouragement to all – each in the diversity of their origins and history - to participate according to their own talents in the building of a society that seeks peaceful well-being in equality and rejecting all discrimination.”

Photos from the Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration

At 9.30 am this morning, in the Sala Clementina of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the participants of the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, and Populist Nationalism in the context of Global Migration, underway in Rome from 18 to 20 September 2018, promoted by the Department for the Integral Human Development Service and by the World Council of Churches (WCC), in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. The Pope gave a speech on his arm.

We publish below the speech that the Holy Father had prepared for the occasion and that was delivered to those present and the transcription of the introductory words that the Pope pronounced on his arm:

Discourse of the Holy Father

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the World Conference on the theme of Xenophobia, racism and populist nationalism in the context of world migration (Rome, 18-20 September 2018). I cordially greet the representatives of the institutions of the United Nations, of the Council of Europe, of the Christian Churches, in particular of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, and of other religions. I thank Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Department for the Integral Human Development Service, for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of all the participants.

We live times when life seems to come back and feelings that many seemed to have overcome. Feelings of suspicion, of fear, of contempt and even of hatred towards individuals or groups judged different by reason of their ethnic, national or religious affiliation and, as such, deemed not worthy enough to participate fully in the life of society. These feelings, too, often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion, which seriously damage the dignity of the people involved and their fundamental rights, including the right to life and to physical and moral integrity.

The severity of these phenomena can not leave us indifferent. We are all called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person, starting from the family - place where we learn from the tender age the values ​​of sharing, acceptance, brotherhood and solidarity - but also in the various social contexts in which we operate.

First of all, I think of the formators and the educators, who are asked to renew their commitment so that the respect of every human person is taught in the school, university and other places of formation, despite the physical and cultural differences that distinguish it. prejudices.

In a world in which access to information and communication tools is increasingly widespread, a particular responsibility rests on those who work in the world of social communications, who have the duty to put themselves at the service of truth and to spread information by having care to foster the culture of encounter and openness to the other, in mutual respect for diversity.

Those, then, who derive economic benefit from the climate of distrust in the foreigner, in which the irregularity or illegality of the stay favors and nurtures a system of precariousness and exploitation - sometimes at a level that gives life to real forms of slavery - should make a profound examination of conscience, in the awareness that one day they will have to give an account before God of the choices they have made.

Faced with the spread of new forms of xenophobia and racism, even the leaders of all religions have an important mission: to spread among their faithful the ethical principles and values ​​inscribed by God in the human heart, known as the natural moral law. It is about carrying out and inspiring gestures that contribute to building societies founded on the principle of the sacredness of human life and respect for the dignity of every person, on charity, on brotherhood - which goes far beyond tolerance - and on solidarity.

In particular, may the Christian Churches be humble and industrious witnesses to the love of Christ. In fact, for Christians, the moral responsibilities mentioned above assume an even deeper meaning in the light of faith.

The common origin and the singular bond with the Creator make all the people members of one family, brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God, as the Biblical Revelation teaches.

The dignity of all men, the fundamental unity of the human race and the call to live as brothers, are confirmed and further strengthened to the extent to which the Good News is received that all are equally saved and reunited by Christ, to the point that - as St. Paul says - "there is no Jew or Greek; there is no slave or free; there is no male and female, because all [... we are] one in Christ Jesus "( Gal 3:28).

In this perspective, the other is not only a being to be respected by virtue of his intrinsic dignity, but above all a brother or sister to be loved. In Christ, tolerance is transformed into fraternal love, tenderness and operational solidarity. This is especially true of the smallest of our brothers, among whom we can recognize the stranger, the stranger, with whom Jesus himself identified himself. On the day of the universal judgment, the Lord will remind us: "I was a stranger and you did not receive me" ( Mt 25,43). But already today he asks us: "I am a foreigner, do not you recognize me?".

And when Jesus said to the Twelve: "It shall not be so among you" ( Mt 20,26), he did not refer only to the dominion of the leaders of nations as regards political power, but to the whole Christian being. Indeed, being a Christian is a call to go against the current, to recognize, welcome and serve Christ himself discarded in the brothers.

Aware of the many expressions of closeness, welcome and integration towards the already existing foreigners, I hope that from the meeting just concluded many other collaborative initiatives may arise, so that we can build together more just and supportive societies.

I entrust each of you and your families to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Tenderness, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.

[01410-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]

Introductory words in arm:

Dear friends, good morning!

I wrote a speech to read, but it is a bit 'longish ... This is why I prefer to tell you two or three words from the heart and then greet you one by one: this is very important for me. Please do not be offended.

[01414-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]


An official Vatican English translation may be found later on the website of the Holy See at:

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pillars of Peace -The Abraham Conference 2018

A highlight of August 208 was attending the Pillars of Peace -The Abraham Conference 2018. 

A full report of the conference is available here.  My images capture some key  moments in my learning and connection on the path of interfaith collaboration.

The Abraham Conference is planned, organised and co-hosted representatives of Affinity Intercultural Foundation, the Australian Egyptian Forum Council, the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Uniting Church in Australia: Synod of NSW & ACT.

With Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta

With Peter Gates
It was an honour  to meet Most Rev Vincent Long, . Vincent is a bishop who keeps his word: As your bishop, I wish to reiterate the commitment I made at my installation: “I am committed to make the church in Parramatta the house for all peoples, a church where there is less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity.” As a community of disciples, we seek to accommodate, accompany and care for one another irrespective of sexual orientation, marital status and situation.

Peter Gates is a long time associate and inspirational faith leader.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A faith communities perspective on the issue of refugees in Manus and Nauru

11 September 2018
There are around 1,650 asylum seekers and refugees, adults and children, currently in Manus and Nauru. These are people who arrived by boat after 19th July 2013 and are still awaiting resettlement. Many are entering their sixth year in those regional processing centres, and a steady stream of health professionals have articulated concerns about the mental and physical damage sustained by people who have been given little reason to hope for a time when they can establish permanent roots in a community.
These are lives on hold.
At the beginning of 2017 there were some 2,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Manus and Nauru. The USA agreed to take up to 1,200 refugees as part of a deal struck between Australia and the USA in 2016. Around 280 have left for resettlement there so far and with other repatriations and settlements, there are 1,650 remaining. Even if the USA takes 1,200 people, that still leaves over 700 who will not go there.
If the government takes up the offer by New Zealand to settle 150 refugees, that still leaves 580 people, probably many more, with no mutually acceptable path out of the offshore processing centres to which they are confined.
Immigration issues often arouse strong passions when we discuss and debate the policies put forward and then implemented by the government of the day. But while immigration policy is decided by the government, there is one aspect of this issue on which neither the government, nor the parliament, nor the wider community, nor especially faith communities, can compromise.
Government policies need to give expression to the fundamental values that underpin the type of society we strive for, regardless of any political pressures.
And for the Government to argue that it has relinquished responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees in Manus and Nauru to the PNG and Nauru governments may be a statement of legal status, but skirts our moral responsibility to the people we have placed in Manus and Nauru.
If we accept that people accused of a crime can be tried in a court of law, convicted and sentenced to a maximum period of detention, then we cannot arbitrarily and indefinitely hold asylum seekers and refugees who have not been convicted of any crime.
In the language of faith communities we say that each of us holds the spark of the transcendent and this informs our common commitment to treating all people with decency, dignity and respect. This is not merely an ideal, but an intrinsic part of each of our communities, and far from seeing ourselves as imposing this view on the wider community, we see this as a common shared value and indeed one that must find expression in the policies and words of our government.
Our obligation to assist the refugees in Manus and Nauru began when they arrived in 2013. Now, 5 years later there is still no clear plan for the complete resettlement of this cohort. It is a nightmare for the adults and children in this plight, a self-evident failure to treat this group of people according to the values we ourselves espouse, and an abrogation of responsibility to ensure compassion underpins our deliberations on this issue. Current government policy will allow this situation to continue for another 20 years. Just imagine if in 2038, the lives of this group of people are still on hold after 25 years.
In the end, a practical way must be found as soon as possible to resettle the many hundreds of remaining refugees who will not be included in the USA and NZ refugee resettlement options. We urge our policy-makers to bring this situation to a close.