Pray for mothers of desperate refugees in detention

NEWS | Anne Lim

Friday 6 May 2016

For most families, Mother’s Day is a day of joy and celebration when we revel in the blessing of a mother’s love.

But the flip side of a mother’s love is the worry she suffers when her son or daughter is ill or in danger on the other side of the world.

That’s why the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce wants this Mother’s Day to be a National Day of Prayer for those it calls the forgotten victims of detention – the mothers of people in detention, particularly on Manus Island at this time of great uncertainty after the PNG Supreme Court found the camp was illegal.

“The uncertainty of knowing when your child will we be free, or safe, or healthy is a debilitating burden to bear,” says Misha Coleman, executive officer of ACRT.

The ACRT also wants us to remember the mothers who are in detention.Virgin Mary billboard

Coleman says she has been deeply affected by meeting mothers and babies who are in detention on Nauru but are temporarily in Australia for some medical reason.

“These are women whose babies were born in detention and this is their first time tasting a tiny bit of freedom,” she said.

“The hardest thing is that they’re all in this limbo land because they know that when their medical issues are resolved, the minister is still talking about sending them back to Nauru and they’re terrified.”

Coleman said they are living in fear of getting a knock of the door at 3am and being taken back to Nauru, like the Somali girl taken from the Brisbane detention centre who set herself on fire earlier this week.

It was the second self-immolation at Nauru in the past week. The first involved a 23-year-old Iranian man, Omid Masoumali, who died.

“If you know anyone who suffers from depression or acute mental illness – and so many detainees are now in that state – we know that when people are on a knife edge it doesn’t take much to tip them over.

“Nauru is an absolute disaster waiting to happen. We’ve had two people try to kill themselves in the most painful and certain away, and there are so many people in same precarious ill health.”

“We’re having this national day of prayer because our hearts are broken.”

Coleman said the hospital in Nauru resembles a war zone, with two people who have swallowed razor blades, a woman who has attempted to hang herself, and a boy so acutely depressed he wanders around the camp looking for him mum and sister, who have been transferred to Melbourne detention centre.

“So we’re having this national day of prayer because our hearts are broken,” she said.

The ACRT is asking people and churches to register so that it can tell the government how many people are spending their Mother’s Day praying for those mothers.

“The number of churches is growing on hourly basis.

We have 820 members – churches, parishes, service providers – and the number of organisations that have registered is growing on an hourly basis,” she said.

The ACRT released a prayer that churches may like to circulate in their bulletins this week.

A prayer for the mothers of people in Australia’s offshore detention centres

Creator God,
Who was with the Mother of Moses as she suffered the loss of her missing child,
Who was with the Mother of Jesus as they fled together through the desert,
And who loves the mothers of the young men who have been treated so cruelly on Manus,

See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.

Creator of Justice and Mercy,
Who inspires in the heart of every person a desire to be good,
Who weeps about the violence of our collective sins,
And who loves our politicians who are responsible for those young men.

See the fears they carry in their bodies,
See them tossing in their sleep.

Creator of Community,
Who is the embodiment of perfect community,
Who challenges everyone to love their neighbour and their enemy,
And who invites everyone to eat together at the table,
Grant us the vision to see all those mothers who are not in front of us today,
Grant us with courage to welcome the stranger.

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