So our state Attorney-General has labelled the so-called Gang of 49 “evil” and our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has condemned people smugglers as the “absolute scum of the earth” and they should “rot in hell”. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/17/2545748.htm)
They are obviously closer to the scene than I am to be able to so neatly categorise and condemn.
Recently I reviewed a book by Biblical scholar Daniel L. Smith-Christopher for the Uniting Church’s Relations with Other Faiths website. http://assembly.uca.org.au/rof/resources/book-reviews
He has had his Californian eye on the Mexican border, where “people smugglers” are called coyotes.
Here is a portion of my review:
During the Howard era, “People Smugglers” became part of the dirty vocabulary promulgated to justify border protection. It gained traction as part of a suite of fear-based “them-and-us” policies designed to keep “us” safe from people who might want to destroy our way of life. “People smugglers” were the bad guys ripping off “queue-jumpers” and leaving them to sink in leaky boats. The Ruddock idea was that if you could make our detention centres bad enough, this would deter the “illegals” in the first place and stop the “trade” of “people smuggling.” The word would get around and they wouldn’t come!
But what about good “people smugglers”? What if there are good people wanting to help those seeking to escape desperate situations? Surely they are unsung heroes! There are enough examples of good people hiding Jews and others facing certain death from the Nazi’s during the Second World War to give us pause for thought.
So, to protest the labeling and vilification of groups of people, no matter how big the grain of truth, (as Samaritans were branded and condemned in Jesus’day), I offer a liberal refreshment of the Parable of the Good Samaritan for our day (Luke 10: 25-37):
The Parable of the Good People Smuggler.
The PM came up to Jesus and asked “Teacher, what is the best thing we could do about these boat people that keep arriving without visas?”
Jesus answered, “What does the law say? How do you interpret it?”
The PM answered, “Well, under international law, which Australia has ratified, anyone who is in fear of their life from religious or political persecution has a right to flee and claim asylum in the country to which they flee.”
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you do well.”
But the PM wasn’t satisfied with such a simple answer, so he asked Jesus, “But what about our own Australian law and our immigration policies?”
Jesus answered, “ There was once a long running feud between two peoples who had different cultures and religions. After many years of fighting to establish what they thought were their rights, one of the peoples prevailed and began to extract revenge for past conflict, killing many of the others; but some escaped in fishing boats with only their clothes and meagre supplies. They eventually came to land in a new country but it had not signed the international refugee convention and they were sent back out to sea. They came to another land but they were told they would be put in prison for illegal entry, so they left again. But a people smuggler who happened to be travelling by boat came across them, and when he saw them, his heart was filled with pity. He came alongside and gave them the food and water he had and took them in tow to a place where they could seek asylum as refugees.
And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which of these three did the best thing for the boat people?”
The PM answered, “The one who was kind to them.”
Jesus replied, “You go then, and do the same.”
For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another.
(St Paul’s letter to the Galations, Chapter 5 verses 14 and 15.)