Nothing new under the sun

The Love Makes a Way story begins long before Love Makes a Way.

It begins with the long history of nonviolence. And nonviolence isn’t new. As Gandhi said, nonviolence is ‘as old as the hills’. It has always been around because God has always been around, and nonviolence is nothing more than a reflection of the Creator’s sacrificial love for all creation. It is the love that was reflected in God in Christ dying rather than killing to reveal a new way of peace and justice in the midst of the world’s brutality.

Love Makes a Way would simply not be possible without the faithful witness of our brothers and sisters across time who have showed us what it means to live in the power of nonviolent love. We think of folks involved with struggles like that against British domination in India, or white supremacy in the U.S., or Apartheid in South Africa. Or we think of homegrown leaders like William Cooper, Vincent Lingiari and Charles Perkins. We certainly do not see ourselves on their level, but they are our influences, and our examples. Their flames burn bright in history and in our hearts. Presente!

Every action has a reaction

LMAW wasn’t some bright idea cooked up in some brainstorming session. It began because Christians all over Australia, having seen what was being done in our name to people seeking asylum on our shores, sensed deep in their bones that drastic action had to be taken. In our view, this was nothing short of the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts.

When LMAW began in March 2014 there were 1138 children in immigration detention centres. At that time there were already numerous reports about the inhumane effects of keeping people in detention for prolonged periods. Professor Pat McGorry, a former Australian of the Year, had referred to Australia’s detention centres as “factories of mental illness”. Australia’s asylum seeker policies, especially the policy of indefinite offshore detention, and living conditions inside the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres had at that time been condemned by the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Australian Medical Association, The Australian Psychological Society and a wide range of refugee and international law experts in Australia.

Moreover, in February 2014 Australia was forced to face up to the murder of 23-year-old Iranian man Reza Berati — he was inside the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island when he was killed, a fact that was obfuscated by politicians for some time after the incident.

Things have not become much better since then. There are less children in detention now — a fact we give thanks for — but Australia’s policies on people seeking asylum continue to sacrifice humans on the altar of political expediency as we deliberately inflict mental injury on innocent people, including children, in order to ensure others seeking our protection stay far away from our sight.

Accidents happen

In a pub in Paddington, Sydney, three friends started gathering together to discuss what they could do about the cruelty being inflicted on people seeking asylum in Australia. Matt, Josh and Justin had no idea that their conversations at the Paddington Arms would develop into an idea that would snowball into Love Makes a Way.

Early on they invited their friend Jody to join them, and together they planned what was intended to be a one-off nonviolent direct action in the office of then-Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. They invited their friends Kate, Dan, Jaxon, Jarrod, Donna and Miriam to join them, and on 21 March 2014 the first Love Makes a Way action took place.

The mainstream and social media response was beyond any of the group’s expectations. This level of publicity was repeated when a second action happened a few weeks later in Perth, this time with a number of Christian clergy. Before they knew it Christians from all over Australia started to ask how to get involved, and they realised LMAW was more than a one-off thing.

More than a one-off thing

Trainings commenced all over the country, and so did more actions. In 2014 alone LMAW organised 22 nonviolent civil disobedience actions that drew high levels of media interest and played a part in ensuring the violence being done to people seeking asylum in Australia remained in the public eye.

These actions included a twin sit-in (May 2014) in the offices of then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and a National Day of Action (10 Dec 2014) that included 7 simultaneous action in 6 cities.

Actions have continued since then, most notably an action in Parliament House, Canberra, on the 10th anniversary of the day John Howard released all children from detention.

The sight of Christians — including priests, nuns and other clergy — being arrested as they take a nonviolent stand for compassion for people seeking asylum has cut through the public consciousness like few other things have been able to do.

With nonviolent love-in-action they have cut through fear, spin and self-interest with a message of hope, compassion and mercy.

The public narrative on refuge in Australia has been dominated for the last five years by frames of fear and the idea that we must ‘be cruel to be kind.’ Love Makes A Way is the only effort cutting through that at the moment. They are brave, but more than that, they’re smart, careful, and deliberate. They have consistently generated public attention, but the real art has been to do so in a way that is entirely on their message and their terms.” (Sam McLean, former National Director, GetUp!)

Love will make a way. Will you join us?