Sunday Everyday

Pay Per View Torture: Why Are Australian Telcos and ISPs Enabling a Child Sexual Abuse Pandemic?

Warning:  This article has trigger warnings.

Pay Per View Torture: Why Are Australian Telcos and ISPs Enabling a Child Sexual Abuse Pandemic?

Melinda Tankard Reist abcreligion

ABC Religion and Ethics 6 Jul 2017

Internet Service Providers and Telcos, which provide the infrastructure for live-streaming abuse of children to be possible, need to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

“There are examples where people have been wanting to see the violent rape of children five, six, seven years old; and other, very violent acts carried out against very young children.”

– Chief Judge John Pascoe

To all the piteous horrors inflicted on the youngest members of the human family around the world, a new atrocity has been added: “Live Distant Child Abuse.” There is a growing pandemic of this practice of paid-per-view torture.

This practice involves the real-time rape and torture of babies, infants and pre-pubescent children. According to a report from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, “59.72% of the abuse acts against babies and toddlers involved explicit sexual activity/assaults and extreme sexual assaults.” These are acts that are at the highest levels of the Copine scale – a rating system used to categorise the severity of images of child sex abuse.

The more violent the act, the more the user pays. The International Justice Mission(IJM) estimates that men pay between US$20 and $150 for a “sex show” broadcast online. “The cost of such a show will increase with the level of abusiveness requested,” the IJM wrote in a submission to the Federal Inquiry into Human Trafficking, arguing that these practices need to be considered in our provisions against sexual servitude and slavery.

More than half the victims of cybersex abuse trafficking rescued by IJM are aged 12 years old or younger. A three-month-old was removed from the scene of violation in a Philippine den last year. In the Philippines alone, the child abuse market is a one billion-dollar a year industry.

Child sexual abuse online is described as a “global pandemic” in Behind the Screen: Online Child Exploitation in Australia, a new report on Australia’s response to online child exploitation by Anti-Slavery Australia at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. Revealing the alarming scope of online child exploitation, the report, along with IJM’s testimony to a current Federal inquiry into human trafficking, and shocking examples of this child torture highlighted in the Senate last month, will hopefully give this issue the attention it warrants.

It is estimated by the FBI that there are 750,000 child predators online. Increasing numbers of them are using – and, in turn, driving – a growing industry of transnational cyber trafficking of children for sexual exploitation, which is streamed live into the homes of users. There are currently more than 150 million images and videos documenting child exploitation available online.

INHOPE, a network of 46 hotlines in 40 countries to assist in the fight against child sexual abuse, has confirmed 83,644 unique URLs as containing materials from 45 countries. INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation image database records an average of seven unique child sexual exploitation victims made per day. That is more than 10,000 victims as of January this year.

Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found that reports of child sexual abuse imagery rose by 417% between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, 68,092 reports were confirmed as illegal images or video, an increase of 417%, since 2013. It then looked at trends emerging from the 2015 data, finding that:

  • 69% of victims were assessed as aged 10 or under;
  • 1,788 of the victims were assessed as aged 2 or under;
  • 34% of images were category A, involving the rape or sexual torture of children

Those working in the field say infants are increasingly attractive to abusers, because they can’t speak or defend themselves.

Meet Australia’s Sadistic Abusers

Australian offenders have a significant role in this sadistic trade. As at 1 June 2016, 194 Australian children have been identified as victims of online exploitation material. 102 Australian perpetrators have been identified, but this is only a tiny proportion of the 11,000 referrals made to Australian Federal Police in 2015.

Behind the Screens researchers state that, “More Australian based offenders are regularly accessing, downloading from, or even administering vast international networks that encourage the distribution of materials.” Australian-based offenders were “procurers, groomers and administrators of vast online child exploitation networks” and were driving abuse locally and in countries like the Philippines and parts of Eastern Europe.

Chief Judge John Pascoe has noted this disturbing trend in the Federal Circuit Court. He told the ABC’s 7:30, “There are examples where people have been wanting to see the violent rape of children five, six, seven years old; and other, very violent acts carried out against very young children.”

So, who are the Australian men involved in ”Live Distant Child Abuse”? Here are five examples. These weren’t just individuals operating alone – they were operating highly organized businesses, business gangs essentially, with many ties to each other operating in a global system of pornography. This is a collective practice, not the idiosyncratic crimes of a few perverted individuals. Men like these are not just watching pre-made images on a screen – which is, of course, bad enough – but are actually manufacturing the abuse. It is not possible to dissociate their watching from afar from the manufacture of live porn as cruelty and abuse.

Infamous online and contact offender, Peter Scully, was arrested in the Philippines for crimes including child trafficking, child sexual abuse, torture and murder. Scully filmed his crimes for internet clients for $10,000. Police and lawyers describe his crimes as “the most shocking cases of child murder, torture and abuse they have ever seen in the Philippines.” Senior police officers and prosecutors wept when they viewed one video called “Daisy’s Destruction”. Daisy was 18 months old.

In 2016, young Melbourne man Matthew Graham (known as “Lux”) was sentenced to 15 years jail for distributing hundreds of thousands of items of child exploitation material. Beginning as a schoolboy operating out of his parent’s basement, he became one of the biggest child pornography and “hurtcore” distributors in the world, with his websites attracting 3 million hits in three years. His crimes included videoing the torture and rape of a young child in the Philippines, and encouraging the rape and murder of a child in Russia.

Bryan Beattie paid as little as $12 to watch through his Skype account 17 children aged between 8 and 15 being sexually assaulted in the Philippines between 2012 and 2014. Beattie procured a local abuser and instructed him on the kinds of abuses he wanted to see. At sentencing, Beattie said he thought the children being raped appeared “happy.” Beattie is the first NSW man to be charged with a “pay per view” offence. He was sentenced in March 2017 to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment but is eligible for parole in February 2021.

Queenslander Stephen James Sheriff paid a Filipino mother of two girls, including a 10-year-old, for live sex acts. Despite being convicted of soliciting and accessing child exploitative material, he was released with a $500 fine. While his original sentence was 3 years, the lifetime of suffering he has brought upon these children was apparently worth almost nothing.

Kyle Dawson paid about $60 to watch by Skype the abuse of children in the Philippines. His victims were girls aged about 6, 10 and 12, and a boy of about 8 was also abused in a Manila slum. Captured in a sting operation, Dawson was sentenced in the Brisbane District Court on 26 July last year to 5 years in prison with a two-year non-parole period.

In 2015, Shannon McCoole was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for charges relating to his role as head administrator of a global online network with 45,000 members.

Lower Sentences for Pay-Per-View Torture

On average, fewer than half of all convicted offenders are given prison terms, according to Anti-Slavery Australia in Behind the Screen. This pay-per-view torture, commissioned and directed by Australians, has received lower sentences than direct hands-on offending. According to Anti-Slavery Australia:

“Our findings, based on a review of recent case law, indicate that on average, defendants charged and convicted under Commonwealth provisions receive at most 2 to 3 years imprisonment, and where multiple charges are involved, these sentences are served concurrently … Even in cases where offenders have vast collections of child exploitation material, and have used internet services to groom and procure more than one child for the purposes of contact offending, the case law indicates that such aggravating elements increase the overall sentence only marginally.”

While the recent passage of a law to cancel passports of child sex offenders overseas is to be welcomed – more than 770 Australian registered child sex offenders travelled overseas in 2016 – the act does not deal with the fact that a growing proportion of offending happens without the offender stepping outside the door of his home.

In the Senate on 20 June, NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore said the Criminal Code was designed to address perpetrators travelling to abuse a victim, and failed to target those staying home while commissioning, directing and paying for the abuse in real time. Kakoschke-Moore proposes amending laws to crack down on Australian offenders who access the live online abuse of children overseas. She told the Senate, “Committing the offence virtually should make them no less culpable.”

Speaking later to the ABC’s PM program, Senator Kakoschke-Moore said: “We have jurisdiction over offenders here. Where those offenders are using the internet to commission the real time abuse of children to direct that abuse against the child over the internet they must be found guilty of an offence.”

Enabling Abuse: It’s Time to Hold ISPs to Account

There is also a push to hold ISPs to account. Internet Service Providers and Telcos – Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG – which provide the infrastructure for live-streaming abuse of children to be possible, need to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. Telcos are profiting from the global crime of child sexual abuse of the kind that happened to the children I’ve described.

Last week, the ABC’s 7:30 revealed that, in the first 5 months of this year, there were 79 cases where telecommunications companies did not provide the online information such as subscriber records, IP addresses or mobile data required to make an arrest. This equated to a fifth of cases being pursued. That’s 79 cases that cannot be investigated and prosecuted because ISPs consider the “privacy” of their (paying) customers to take precedence over the well-being of tortured children.

It is no wonder police tasked with building a case against suspected perpetrators – and who have to view material on a daily basis that would destroy most of us – are frustrated. One investigating officer interviewed for Anti-Slavery’s report lamented the lack of compliance by Telcos, which appear reluctant to assist with investigations of online child exploitation. The officer gave as an example investigating the abuse of a four-month-old baby and being told “can’t help” 4 times. After he called the E Safety Commissioner, the information was provided within 40 minutes.

Asked by reporter Alex McDonald what happens when there is insufficient information, AFP Commander Lesa Gale responded: “It stops. It ceases. It means we can’t do anything more. It means, if there is a child that’s been exploited, that nothing further can be done.” A child won’t be rescued and an abuser can keep abusing.

Anti-Slavery Australia says there is a lack of clarity relating to the legal obligations of internet service providers – which form “part of a chain which contributes to the distribution of child pornography on the internet” – to report child exploitation material hosted on their networks. Provisions in the Criminal Code and Telecommunications Act are “vague and ineffective.”

Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has flagged amendments to require ISPs to comply. She told the Senate that cyber sexual abusers were “utilizing the infrastructure of telcos to commit their crimes.” Telcos have a “social duty” to “ensure they do everything in their power to assist the AFP” in tracking people using their service to offend. Senator Kakoschke-Moore’s amendments will require ISPs and content hosts to provide specific information to the AFP such as IP addresses or personal details of the subscriber. The amendments would also increase penalties for non-compliance with an AFP request.

Australian ISPs and telcos are commercially mediating the abuse of children. The Australian government needs to take action urgently to make them act ethically. A peak body is needed to give the issue the serious, multilevel cooperation it needs. As Judge Pascoe told 7:30, “I think the public does have a right to expect that they will be part of the social contract; that they will be aware of Australia’s international obligations; and that they will do their part to protect children.”

Without urgent government intervention to address these human rights atrocities against children, the social contract is breached. We all become complicit in these crimes.

Reprinted with permission

Understanding Mental Health

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (WHO)

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Most of us at some time in our life will experience a mental health issue.  In fact one out of  four of us will experience  psychological distress at some stage.

Mental health or mental illness are interchangeable terms.   Mental health is as varied and individual as people themselves.  Some people fully recover after one episode and others can have recurring episodes or long standing mental health issues.  People from any background can experience mental health issues, although those who have experienced trauma or social dislocation are more vulnerable.

If we were to look at a ‘wellbeing’ scale: with 1 being good and 10 being awful, over the course of our lives we will move up and down that scale depending on what we are experiencing.  There is an ebb and flow depending on what is happening in our life.

1: ______________________________________________ 10

If we are in a season where we are struggling it is important that we get a diagnosis because it helps Doctors and Psychologists work out how to help you.

Many people feel that they don’t want to be labelled or defined by their illness.  A way to help you think about diagnosis is the jam jar analogy which my friend Tim Reed describes.

“When you look at the nutrition facts on a jar of jam many ingredients will be listed”

figf

“Diagnosis can be looked at as just one of the ingredients on the list.  The diagnosis is important but is does not represent the whole jar of jam.  It is just one part of it”.

Causes of mental health problems

A number of overlapping factors may increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. These can include:

  • Early life experiences: abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you
  • Individual factors: level of self-esteem, coping skills and thinking styles
  • Current circumstances: stress at school or work, money problems, difficult personal relationships, or problems within your family
  • Biological factors: family history of mental health problems (Headspace)

mind artist

 

Step One:

The first port of call is your local doctor.  Preferably you will make a relationship with a family doctor who knows you and has some understanding of who you are.  A general practitioner will be able to put you onto a mental health plan.  This means that your visits to a psychologist will be substantially subsidised.  When you call to make an appointment please make a double appointment so that you have the time that you need to talk through your issues.

Step Two: Psychologist – Psychiatrist 

Talking therapy  is very valuable to your recovery.  This is a term used when visiting a psychologist.  A psychologist works directly with those experiencing difficulties, such as mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. They help people to overcome relationship problems, eating disorders, learning problems, substance abuse, parenting issues, or to manage the effects of a chronic illness.

A Psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and can prescribe medications.

First Hand Experience

I had a chat with my friend Tim Reed who has experienced ongoing mental health issues and who also runs peer led support groups for mental health and wellness.  Tim explains that for his journey the turning point came when he read a book called “Back from the Brink”by Graeme Cowan

Back from the Brink is a brave book that offers practical advice:

“Centred on interviews with several people from of all walks of life, …Back from the Brink offers people with depression and bipolar disorder real hope and real advice, as well as practical tools for putting what they’ve learned into practice in recovering from their symptoms”(Source).

Tim goes on to say that he needed to restructure the way that he was thinking.  Instead of constantly looking for a cure or a fix,  he needed to look at how to manage his mental illness.  This was the first time that he felt in control and able to manage.

Therapies

There are many therapies that help with mental illness and your psychologist will talk to you about these.

One of them is Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a treatment based on the idea that how you think and act affects how you feel.

In CBT, you work with a therapist to recognise the patterns of thinking that cause you problems (Mind Health).

  1. First you will work with your therapist to understand what are the most troubling problems for you
  2. Then you work out what your thoughts, emotions and beliefs are about these situations.
  3. You will identify which of these thoughts, emotions and beliefs are negative or inaccurate.
  4. Working with your therapist, you find ways to challenge them. You might ask yourself: is that true? Or you might ask yourself: so what?
  5. Then you can find ways to think and act that are less harmful to you.

Dr Russ Harris, author of the international best-selling self-help book ‘The Happiness Trap’, is an world-renowned trainer of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). Russ’s background is in medicine. As a GP he became increasingly interested in the psychological aspects of health and wellbeing, and increasingly disenchanted with writing prescriptions.

woman meditating

ACT uses Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness – which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings have much less impact and influence over you – so it is hugely useful for everything from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business performance (Act Mindfully).

The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. ‘ACT’ is a good abbreviation, because this therapy is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life.

Moving Forward

There is a lot of progress happening in the arena of mental illness.  Clinicians are increasingly looking at mental health from a holistic perspective.

Dr James Courtney is a Clinical Psychologist, lecturer and Placement Coordinator at the Monash Psychological Centre.  I had a chance to hear him speak on this topic recently.  There is a huge push to look into the impact of genetics and DNA on a patient.  They have found for instance that panic attacks are 7 times more likely to have been inherited in your DNA.

‘Following a Biopsychosocial model of treatment, we try to look at a whole lot of influences including genetics and the influences that you had on you as a child.  We try to understand the whole journey”.

It is now possible to have a DNA test and have your medication personally fitted to your specific DNA.  A genetic test will reveal how you will respond to a drug, what suits you and what suits your profile.   This level of accuracy takes away all the pain and frustration of trying many different medications until you find the right one.  Through DNA testing they can custom fit your medication.

Resources and Organisation that can HELP you.

PHAMS:  PHAMS is the Personal Helpers and Mentors Service.  This is a federally funded program which works in an outreach capacity.  They meet with people and look at the issues that they are struggling with and help them to move through them.  They work closely with clinical services.  Its about sitting down with a person and mapping out a plan with them and supplying the services that they need.

PHaMs provides increased opportunities for recovery for people aged 16 years and over whose lives are severely affected by mental illness, by helping them to overcome social isolation and increase their connections to the community.  People are supported through a recovery‑focused and strengths‑based approach that recognises recovery as a personal journey driven by the participant.

White Wreath is a non-denominational, non-profit charitable organisation providing 24-hour, seven days a week help, assistance for those suffering mental trauma or considering suicide.

P: 1300 766 177 or
M: 0410 526 562

You will speak immediately to a human voice.

You can Text via Mobilie 0410 526 562

You can Emailwhite.wreath@bigpond.com

Headspace:  headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.   You can access headspace HERE.

Beyond Blue:   beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.  You can access beyond blue HERE

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Lisa’s Story: The Path of Courage

Lisa’s Story: The Path of Courage

by Nicole Conner

You can follow Nicole on her blog here.  Reflections of a Mugwump

 

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is ‘cor’ – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant, ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage’.”

Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me:

Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

IMG_7535

What can tell you about my friend Lisa?

Hers is a story of pain, abuse, survival, hope and courage … courage that is so ordinary and yet so magnificent.

Hers is the story of a turbulent childhood, raised in an abusive cult.

Hers is a story through the valley of the shadow of death as she had to bid goodbye to her husband, who lost his life to cancer.

Hers is the story of being exiled from all the people she loved and finding the strength to go on with three young children.

Hers is the story of rebuilding, of finding love again, of raising a blended family with all its ups and downs.

Hers is the story of trusting again, of using her amazing creative gifts in a new faith community, only to once again be disappointed.

Hers is the story of digging deep, starting yet again, of standing tall.

If there is one word I would use to define Lisa it would be courage – and her story will bring you hope.

  1. “Lisa, thank you so much for being willing to share a bit of your life. You have written more extensively about your experience in growing up in a religious cult (readers, please find the link here and here).
    If we could go back in time, what are some of the thoughts that defined who you were as a six, twelve and sixteen years old?”

Hello. Wow what a question:

At six, I was third in birth order and had a small adopted sister 12 months younger than me. At the time, I was still living with both biological parents and three siblings under the same roof. The home was emotionally very turbulent. Being a small empath, those emotional storms were channelled into my body so I was actually a very sick child. I suffered from migraines, high temperatures and dark hallucinations.

One day in my sixth year, the cult leader, Ray Jackson Snr (the then leader of a group called Immanuel, now called Melbourne Christian Fellowship), lined us all up in the kitchen and made us all say out loud, one by one, in front of my father that he – ‘Ray Jackson’ was our father – (spiritual head). This was the last straw for my Dad who was trying to get us all out of the cult. Realising that he was losing the battle he attempted suicide. The suicide attempt was at home and my sister found him unconscious in his bed. This was the event the cult needed to remove us from my father. A truck arrived and whisked us all away in deep secrecy to a ‘safe’ house.

Sadness and confusion would have been my overriding thoughts. I became an observer in my own life and learned very early on that I had little or no control over what happened to me or to those that I loved. This was a lesson that helped me later on in life.

At the age of twelve, my mother was living in a relationship with a woman who was an elder in the cult. I had no contact with my father and very little with my older siblings.It was the 1970’s and my home life became even more turbulent.

Our home was called “Immanuel House” and was also a home for Bible college students and for many young girls who were wards of the state:

Children have been placed in institutions for many reasons, including family poverty; being orphaned; being born to a single mother; family dislocation from domestic violence, divorce or mental illness; lack of assistance to single parents and parents’ inability to cope with their children … State wards were listed as ‘being uncontrollable’, ‘neglected’ or ‘in moral danger’. In other words, children were often declared ‘uncontrollable’, ‘neglected’ or ‘exposed to moral danger’ and deemed to be wards of the state, not because they had done anything wrong, but because the circumstances in which they found themselves in.” (link)

At times there were 3 or 4 wards of the state living with us. You can imagine how scary this was for a 12-year-old. These older 14 and 15-year-old girls were often quite terrifying, they were traumatised and street smart.One of the rules for those living with us was that they had to attend our church on a weekly basis. Unbeknownst to my mother, the cult leaders were using this house to collect and groom young women.

Ironically, these girls who came to us from situations of moral danger were put directly in the path of those who were morally dangerous. These women have their own stories of sexual abuse and mind control.

Therefore, my home life was unstable, unpredictable and confusing. I did, however, have a faith in God and used to pray and read the Bible a lot. I did have a knowledge of the supernatural and understood quite clearly the impact of good and evil as I saw it out work in my life firsthand.

One of the things these girls used to do, as a way of flipping the bird to my mother, was to hold seances. When you are used as a guinea pig in a spiritual ritual and are floating 2 feet off the ground unassisted, you understand that there are supernatural powers at work.

Grief, fear and loss were overriding emotions in my little life at this time. I was also initiated into the supernatural in many ways during this period. The world of angels and demons, prophecies, dreams and hallucinations became very real for me.

By the age of sixteen, I was living 50% of my time with a cult family. My mother, in consultation with the cult leader, ‘gave me’ to another family within the cult when I was about 14. I adored this family and was grafted in very easily. They were a pretty stereotypical nuclear family and I thrived in the order and predictability of ‘normal’ family life (if being part of a cult can be normal).

The father was the music director of the church and, being a creative, I absolutely loved the music and creativity of this space.At sixteen, I was highly mind-controlled and was in weekly private programming meetings with the cult leaders and eldership.I was being groomed for total control and manipulation.

My overriding thoughts were of fear and panic as I never knew what punishment was coming or how I would be treated. I received beatings at this age by the cult leader in front of groups of men. I would have to publicly repent and pray out loud for my sins and faults which were brought to my attention weekly.

I was by this stage completely consumed by cult life and was 100% submissive.I believed that submission was the way to God. If that were the case then I must be very close to God because I was too terrified to disobey.

I was defined by hierarchy and patriarchy. I began to understand that to be close to the cult leader and those high on the hierarchy ladder brought special privileges and allowances. It also brought horrifying oppression and dominance.Little sisters 6 and 5

2. “You have faced some of life’s greatest challenges, including the death of your husband, Ken, and shortly afterwards being totally cut off from your place and people of belonging by the cult. How did you go on? What were the thoughts that pulled you through?”

One of the things that helped me to go on from a place of complete devastation and loss was the understanding that my journey was incomplete. I still had a road to travel and I had to be strong for my children. They were completely reliant on me and needed me to be able to function.

I understood that bad things happen to people, good or bad. In fact, in my life, they happened a lot. Today I see many people completely dissolve under pressure or loss because they have this mindset that bad things shouldn’t happen to them. They are somehow blessed or exempt. These people seem to struggle with the concept of suffering. They feel that they are above it, immune to it.

The biggest illusion is that we have control over our lives. We plan, we save, we dream, we plot our lives and the lives of our children. In reality, we have no control. Illness, tragedy, accidents can hit us out of nowhere. I realised early on that I wasn’t in control. Everything that was happening to me was completely out of my control. So acceptance came to me a little earlier perhaps than those who had led a picture perfect life.

Suffering and grief are a human condition. No one is immune to it and we often have no choice. Up to 90% of what has happened to me has not been my choice. We do have a choice about how we deal with it and the legacy that we leave behind.

Do we allow suffering to mould and strengthen us or do we allow it to break us and make us bitter?

This realisation hit me when I had to choose a tomb stone for my husband. My thought was this. “What could I write that would still speak to my children when they stood here 20 years from now as adults”. I also had a deep faith in God and knew that I was not completely alone in this journey. He was beside me. He could not take the suffering away, but he could support and comfort me.

This was the reading that I chose for the tombstone.

Psalm 84

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,
Who have set their minds on a pilgrimage.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping (Baca),
It will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God

These are my overriding thoughts through this time:
We are each of us, on a journey, a pilgrimage.
We will undoubtedly pass through valleys of weeping –  this is a given.
However, those valleys can become places of refreshing if we allow them too.
The autumn rains come: inevitably life continues, life goes on.
The promise for us is that we can become stronger until it is our turn to appear before God.

3. “You found love again with Phil, and together with yours and his three children became the ‘Brady Bunch’. Yet in so many ways you were still recovering from trauma – can you tell us a bit about these years? What got you through the tough times?”

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. LOL…

Being a stepmother is one of the hardest gigs that I have ever done. (And can I just say that it was the Brady Bunch without Alice).

It was a whole new world. We had just left the cult and did not know a soul. We had to start again. Completely from scratch. I was still very mind controlled and affected by extreme conservative fundamentalist thinking and very sick physically.

In some ways, this total isolation gave us the space we needed to start again without any external influences. I had to hold everything very loosely, all my support structures were gone. I didn’t know which way was up.

I engaged the help of professionals. We had an amazing family doctor and for the first three years we had a standing weekly appointment. I also made regular appointments with a clinical child psychologist from the Royal Children’s Hospital and took all eight of us along.

I needed to know:

What were normal teenage and child behaviours?
What was grief?
What was abandonment?
What was it like to blend a family and for children to change birth orders?

I could not have done this alone. I also started seeing a counsellor and psychologist and have continued to do so for the last 17 years. I needed many tools and a lot of help to navigate these new waters.

4. “You rebuilt your life and became an integral part of a different faith community where you served diligently for many years. Yet again you were disappointed, and in a sense betrayed, in a space that had become a safe haven for you. How the heck did you recover from that? Has this impacted you in how you view religious communities as a whole?”

I am slowly recovering from the gut wrenching pain of feeling betrayed and mishandled in this space. It has been a slow road to recovery.

I am very grateful for the time spent in that faith community. I learned so much and was empowered to grow and develop in so many areas. It was a season of growth and reinvention. During this time, I committed myself to academic study which helped me enormously. In regard to the brain washing, I threw out all of my theology and started again. I needed to know what to sift, what to throw away and what to keep. I needed to learn how to think critically. I needed new guides and new teachers.

What I have learned now is that patriarchy and hierarchy are everywhere. There is no perfect faith community because community involves people and people are messy. People generally like control, they like packages and they like order. As an artist and creative I think I have had an advantage in many ways because artists embrace chaos and mess. They know that it’s in the space of mystery and darkness that innovation and transformation occur. We take raw materials and transform them into something else.

I feel more freedom now that I am not involved in an institutionalised space. I have learned a lot about myself and what I believe. I don’t believe in patriarchy, I don’t believe in hierarchy, I don’t believe in inequality, and I am very wary of male dominated spaces. Therefore, there is a disconnect for me concerning many of our religious communities today because they are made up of all of the above.

The last three years for me have been a ‘coming alive’ to the teachings of Jesus – His character, His teaching and His concerns.

5. “You have written quite a bit about trauma and mental health (see link here).  What are some practical steps that you recommend for people in recovery, perhaps struggling with poor mental health?”

In your opening, Nicole, you mentioned one of my favourite quotes:

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

For me, mental health has a lot to do with speaking your heart. Healing from abuse starts when you begin to tell your story. Language is powerful – when you can find the words and when you can tell your heart to a safe person, then understanding and healing begins.

Being brave enough to get help is another huge indicator of your ability to recover. You cannot do life alone and you cannot recover alone. You need professionals to help you navigate this space. To give you language to help you to understand where you are and what has happened to you.

6. “Lisa, you are a bit like Fawkes, Dumbledore’s Phoenix in Harry Potter, that keeps rising from the ashes. Today you serve the people in your community, you are one of Victoria’s top 100 Wedding Celebrants, and one of the most others-centred people I know. I am not sure whether I would have your resilience in your circumstances. Can you talk a bit about what goes on inside that makes you rise again?”

Three things: Acceptance, Transformation and Forgiveness

a. Acceptance:

Some people spend more energy fighting the fact that something bad is happening rather than accepting it and getting on with it.

At one, stage in his dying journey, my husband went blind. I was falling apart, crying and he said to me, “Lisa, the sooner you accept that this is God’s will for your life, the easier it will be for you”. The key here is acceptance. I don’t like it, I don’t want it, but this is what it is, this is my life and this is what I need to do about it.

Once a well-intentioned woman said to me: “I don’t know how you do this. I know if this happened to me I just wouldn’t cope.”

My response: Is there a choice? Is there another way to do this? If there is please let me know.

It’s a bit like childbirth. That baby is coming and you cannot get off that conveyor belt. You don’t have a choice, you have to give birth. You may not like it, but that’s how it is.

b. Transformation:

Dumbledores Phoenix is an interesting analogy. This mythological bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Isn’t this the work of salvation? Jesus said you cannot see the Kingdom unless you are born again.Spiritual vision comes with rebirth.

Being born again and again means death and rebirth. It is the cycle of life. It is how a seed turns into a tree.

Richard Rohr says that there are two things that transform us: suffering and prayer. Suffering is the catalyst that is used to transform us. Prayer is the vehicle that keeps us in the furnace until the change is complete. Prayer, which I call conversations with God, is the thing that keeps us sane through the transformation process.

c: Forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself. It is the key to moving on. You cannot move forward if you are tethered to the past. Only you can cut the bondage that is holding you to the event, the hurt, the trauma. Only forgiveness is powerful enough to release you from this binding. You cannot even mature emotionally. Without forgiveness, you will remain the emotional age that the trauma happened to you.

I had to forgive my husband for getting cancer, for dying and for leaving me. Does that make sense? No. He couldn’t control that, he didn’t intend it but nevertheless, I was angry. I was furious that I was left behind without him. I had to let him go. I had to forgive him and forgive myself for my anger.

7. “I know there will be readers who will deeply resonate with your story on many levels. Readers, who like you, are survivors and have had to draw deep in order to rise again. Is there something you would like to say to them?”

I would say to my fellow survivors –

“You can do this. Not only can you do this, you can do it and come out even stronger than you were before. Accept this pain and allow it to forge steel in your bones.”

What has suffering taught me?

Compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, love, acceptance and kindness toward my brother and sister. Suffering teaches you humility in your humanity. Humility makes you realise that we all belong. We are all part of the process. We are not exempt, we are not superhuman, we are not elite.

More than comfort, money or fame; my legacy to my children is the example of my life. Yes, bad things happen, but you are able to survive. More importantly, you have the resilience you need to thrive. You can live in Shalom. You can flourish through the journey of suffering. You can live in community with others as gracious, loving, merciful and compassionate human beings. Everyone has the right to belong. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone deserves to be heard. Your story is your life and your life is your story.

“Thank you, Lisa, for your time, your heart and all you are, dear friend.”

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Character: Who Are You When No-one is Looking?

After 50 or so years I have learned a couple of things.  One of them is this.  You can tell the character of a person by who they are when no one is looking.  Who they are when they don’t need anything from you. Character is who we are as a person and it influences the decisions that we make in life.  It is also a strong indicator of what we believe.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
Abigail Van Buren

Coming from a sales perspective, people will sell you all kind of things.  Ideas, doctrine, philosophy, theology, programmes and quick fixes.  There are a lot of things that we can build our lives on and put our trust in.  The greatest legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren is not money or fame, it is character.  Character is built on goodness, integrity, kindness, faithfulness, honesty etc..

Spending most of my life in the institutionalised church environment,  I learned a lot about scripture, doctrine, 5 step programmes, volunteers, serving, giving etc..  In other words, a lot about how to belong in a church environment, about how to ‘DO’ church. I didn’t learn that much about character.  How to ‘BE’.    Now in my latter years I realise that the most important teachings of Jesus is about fruit.  What you produce.  It is about who you are when no one is looking.  It is about what you are feeding to other people.

  • How do you taste?
  • How do people experience you?
  • How do you treat the sales lady at the grocery store?
  • How do you speak to your neighbour?
  • How do you live alongside and support those who are weak or disabled?
  • How do you help the poor the widow the marginalised?

Jesus said:  Man looks on the outward appearances but He looks on the heart.

This is what He is saying: “I am more concerned with who you are inside?  What is the condition of your heart?  It means more to me that you are kind, loving and gracious than what job you hold, what church you attend or what doctrine you subscribe to”.

Character is something that is intrinsically within a person and is above race, religion, age or gender, and even education and one’s personality.

“In temper he was Earnest, yet controlled, frank, yet sufficiently guarded, patient, yet energetic, forgiving, yet just to himself; generous yet firm.” 

J. T. Duryea

“His conscience was the strongest element of his nature.  His affections were tender & warm. His whole nature was simple and sincere – he was pure, and then was himself.” 

J. T. Duryea

Attorney Samuel C. Parks wrote “that for a man who was for the quarter of a century both a lawyer & a politician he was the most honest man I ever knew. He was not only morally honest but intellectually so – he could not reason falsely – if he attempted it he failed”.

These  quotes are describing President Abraham Lincoln.  This was a man who was known for his good character.  Here was a person you could trust, who was steady, reliable, fair and just.

Let me ask you this: If your work colleagues, your neighbours,  your school mates, your pub mates, your family and extended families were asked to describe YOU, as these people have done about Abraham Lincoln, what would they say?

We are told to be imitators of Christ.  Who was above all:  loving, kind, just, compassionate, accepting, wise, peaceful, gentle, good, meek, even-tempered, honest, merciful, gracious and I could go on.  Surely if we are followers of Jesus Christ, this is the type of people that we should be.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
John Wooden

Cherry Tree

You know a tree by its fruit right?  Different kinds of fruit trees can quickly be identified by examining their fruit.  If it’s an apple tree, you should get apples.   Jesus says that this is the way that we are to determine people.  He gave us some wise instruction:  ‘By their fruits you will know them’.

Matthew 7:15-20 MSG

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

I have a potted lemon tree on my front balcony that I have had for several years. It has vigorous growth, looks amazing, is in a stunning pot,  but it does not produce any lemons.  It is the most frustrating thing ever.   Do you know people like this?  They look good, they seem to be doing the right things but they don’t actually produce anything good.  They don’t GIVE.  They don’t contribute.  They take the watering, they take the feeding, they love the sun and the warmth but they don’t produce anything.  They don’t contribute.

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In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree.  He says this.  A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, for three years he came to this fig tree to get fruit but it never had any.   He tells the farmer to cut it down.  The farmer says to give it one more year, if after fertilising it and caring for it for another year it does not produce fruit, he will cut it down.

Buddy Stallings puts it this way:

‘In Palestine a fig tree was particularly important. In several places in Hebrew scripture the health of all of Israel was symbolized by how fruitful or not the fig tree was. Jesus hearers no doubt knew of this literary reference, and the mention of a fig tree would have immediately caught their attention. Over the years I have taken some comfort from the Gardener’s suggestion that the fig tree be given another chance, another year before being chopped down, as further evidence of the wideness of God’s mercy.

But recently reading Rohr’s new book, I came upon a new insight. The overriding point of the book is to differentiate between the True Self and the False Self. Rohr claims, as others have, that our True Self comes from God, is given to us and resides with us forever.

He refers to it as an “internal humming reverence that finally must be honored.”

The False Self is our creation, our persona, the sense of self we develop to meet the world in the way we think the world desires us to be. It is the part of us that wants to be noticed; it is always looking to be somewhere and some thing other than what it is, bending in the breeze of every fad or fashion.

A fig tree living as an authentic fig tree is one that is prolifically fertile. The True Self of the fig tree is to abundantly produce fruit;  it is the tree’s reason for being, its joy, and its purpose. In the parable the fig tree, which is not producing, is living some version of the False Self, something other than for what it was created, for true fig trees produce abundantly’.

 

Jesus teachings show us that He wants us to be our true self, to have good character to produce good fruit.  Fruitfulness, peace, self-awareness, rest, wholeness and demonstrations of loving kindness to those around us is what Jesus desires for us.   He wants us to be people of good character, who produce good fruit.   He is not interested in our dogma, doctrine, rules and regulations around ‘doing’ church.  He is VERY interested in us ‘being’ his presence or being ‘like him’ within our communities.  He cares deeply for people and his creation and he wants us to care also.

This flies in the face of a lot of the behaviour that we see demonstrated today toward those who are different to us.  To homosexuals, to refugees, to the downtrodden, disabled, homeless, drunkard and the drug addict.  What is our true character toward these who Jesus calls the least.  He said:  whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.

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Are we loving?  Are we kind?  Are we inclusive?  Are we merciful and understanding?  Do we contribute and support in practical ways?  Are we nourishing and feeding those around us and those who we intersect with?

These are the true tests of good character.  This is the true litmus test of a Christ follower.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Jn 13:34

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on-line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Our Apprentice Chef is Deaf and We Adore Her

When I am not writing for this blog or for other endeavours,  I am employed as the volunteer coordinator at the non for profit cafe ‘Now and Not Yet’ in Warrandyte.   This role is a delight for me in so many ways.  I am  constantly amazed and humbled by the incredible people who wish to volunteer to support their community.  Community, at least in this part of the world, is vibrant, alive and well.  People are kind, generous and selfless and it is these interactions that give you hope for the world in which we live.  Especially a world which at the moment seems to have lit itself on fire.

Volunteering is at the very core of caring for community.  No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.

Let me tell you a story about one of our very special volunteers Lisa May Parker.  Recently I asked Lisa to write down her story of becoming a volunteer at Now and Not Yet and between the two of us, some gesturing and a lot of texting we managed to get it all down.  You see Lisa is deaf.  When she joined our team she fitted in perfectly.  She is smart, a quick learner and very efficient.  It was us, the staff, who had the steep learning curve.  Working in a busy kitchen cafe can be a little dangerous at times and people rely on vocal cues to let each other know what is going on.  “Behind”  “Hot Hot”, “Coming Through”.

How do you do this when the kitchen hand is deaf?  Well you learn new ways of communication.  I would like to commend the staff at the Cafe, especially Jack Lawrence who has done an outstanding job of making Lisa feel comfortable and included.  For a young man he has shown wisdom and kindness beyond his years.

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This is Lisa’s letter to us:

My name is Lisa Parker.  I am 45 years old and live at Crowley Road Healsville.  I am a deaf woman and have only been employed once before at a laundry in Tasmania.   I found out about becoming a volunteer at Now and Not Yet cafe in Warrandyte through a friend.   I started as a volunteer  in the kitchen doing food preparation in October 2016, after attending a training and induction night with Lisa Hunt-Wotton and my interpreter Tamara.

For the first 5 months of shifts in the cafe I was accompanied by a deaf interpreter Tamara.  Tamara came  to work with me so everything could be explained to me in normal working hours. Tamara remained quite inconspicuous, not hovering around the workplace, but sitting out of the way, and just acted when needed. This helped the chef Jack and everyone else to understand what was required in this situation.  I received government funding to be able to have Tamara and it is common practice when a deaf person starts in a new job.

It was a steep learning curve for me and for all the staff in the cafe but they were wonderful and made me feel very welcome.  Everyone was so caring and helpful. At times some communication was difficult  but everyone tried so hard to make me feel at ease and now it feels like home.  When I first started, Jack the chef took photos of the menu items and laminated them and posted them around the kitchen so that I could easily see what was needed.

It wasn’t long until I moved to volunteering two days a week because I loved it so much.

In fact I love it so much and have gained so much confidence that I have enrolled for an apprenticeship.   On July 15, 2017, I started my first day of employment at the cafe as ‘apprentice chef’.

I do my training at the cafe under Jack and a lady from the apprenticeship course comes to the cafe fortnightly to train and teach me.

This has been the most wonderful experience for me and I highly recommend the volunteer programme to others.  I was never made to feel  different or inadequate and have been supported and encouraged every step of the way.

 

Me and Lisa.                                                                   Tamara, Lisa and Jack.

Can I just add that me – Lisa artist – not Lisa Chef – is wearing an apron covered in paint as I was working in the art studio that day and not in the cafe LOL……. Otherwise it looks kind of strange as the chefs are immaculate.  Sorry Jack and Lisa.

 

Religion As Reality Avoidance

Religion as reality avoidance

Addict

American shame researcher Brené Brown describes the current generation of adults as “the most obese, in debt, medicated and addicted adults in human history”. I don’t think I know many people who would seriously disagree with that assessment.

What’s driving this trend?

I would say it basically boils down to one thing: reality avoidance.

The world is just too painful and difficult a place, so rather than deal with the distressing reality of it, we find all kinds of creative ways to distract and numb ourselves.

Some go shopping, even when they don’t really need anything and can’t afford it anyway (sometimes half-jokingly but tellingly referred to as “retail therapy”). Others begin to indulge in eating sweet or fatty foods; at first, they find comfort in it, but it soon morphs into something they need in order to survive. Many immerse themselves in social media, spending every spare moment presenting a curated version of themselves to the world, all the while carefully hiding their true selves. Some are addicted to work; for others, it might be porn or sex; still others find themselves enslaved to alcohol or drugs.In one form or another, addiction is all around us.

(As a bit of an aside, you might think the world has surely always been just as painful as it is now, if not more painful. I would agree with you. In which case, why the recent massive increase in addictive and compulsive behaviours? I’d say the key difference is that we now live in an age that is driven more than ever before by image. From TV and magazine ads and celebrity idols to the carefully crafted perfect personas with which we are bombarded hour after hour on Facebook, we are surrounded by unrelenting pressure to look the best, be the best, know the most, earn the most, have the nicest house, raise the nicest kids. And, conveniently, the consumer model quickly steps in to constantly pepper us with an array of products and services that will help us achieve those very things. It’s a double whammy: we feel more pressured than ever before to live up to an idealised image, and we’re offered more promises than ever before to help us do it. The prevalence of addictive and compulsive behaviours is simply evidence that these promises never deliver.)

But there’s another form of addiction that I haven’t mentioned so far, yet which is very common and very subtle – and which serves exactly the same purpose as all the other addictions we’ve already talked about. I’m talking about being addicted to religion.

Now, most evangelical Christians today would vehemently deny being addicted to religion. They would say they go to church, believe what they believe and engage in the religious activities in which they engage not because they are compelled to do so, but because they choose to.

Well, okay… but bear in mind that many alcoholics also claim they could stop drinking whenever they want to.In fact, there’s one main reason why I believe religion is a major addiction, and that is that it very often meets the definition we began with above: it’s a near-perfect form of reality avoidance.

It seems to me that much of the focus in organised religion is around convincing ourselves that if we believe some things hard enough, get sufficiently involved in certain activities, worship (by which we basically often mean sing) passionately enough and generally put enough effort into being good, we will have the security of knowing that we are in the winning camp of those who have God’s divine stamp of approval come judgement day. (If you don’t believe any of this is entrenched behaviour sometimes bordering on the compulsive, just try questioning the way things are done in your church.)

Meanwhile, what is very often missing from Christianity as it is commonly practised in churches up and down the land is any acknowledgement of the reality of what it means to be a human being in a broken world.Think about it: how many sermons have you heard about how to be a better this or a more effective that; how to be an overcomer and a giant-slayer; how to know God’s amazing destiny for your life; or how to perpetually walk in victory?

If your experience is anything like mine, I’m guessing the answer is somewhere near plenty.But how often have you heard anyone in church talk about dealing with crippling fear or debilitating shame, coping with the heavy burden of regret, or even surviving the reality of serious illness or death? And yet, if we’re honest, aren’t these the things we all have to live with and cope with pretty much every day of our lives?

When church becomes mainly a way for us to feel better about ourselves while avoiding dealing with the messy reality of our shame, our pain and our brokenness, I would say it’s stopped being the life-giving body Jesus intended it to be, and has instead become a narcotic: a shot in the arm that gives short-term relief but ultimately brings necrosis and death.

To put it another way, if church has become a hamster wheel and the thought of getting off the wheel fills you with trepidation, that’s probably a very good sign that you need to get off that wheel and take some time out.

Addiction – whether it’s to hard drugs or religion – ultimately never leads anywhere good. What God desires is not endless religious activity or outward passion, but truth in the inward parts.

To me, the first step towards this is honestly facing up to the pain, the struggle and all the weights we carry around with us.

The way to wholeness is not through denying pain and seeking to apply a religious bandage over it. The way to wholeness is to bring all of our pain, our messiness and our failures to Jesus in the midst of a loving, authentic community, and to receive the cleansing word of acceptance from God and from those with whom we have chosen to share our lives. The sad thing is that it’s often very hard to find such communities within the established church.

Lord, deliver us from religious addiction; and lead us instead into the all-embracing and healing light of your love.

[ Image: bejealousofme ]

NAIDOC Week 2017

Hi all.  I have had some fabulous feedback regarding NAIDOC week.    Thank you for your interest and passion about our indigenous brothers and sisters.

I am really keen to be educated in the area of our First Australian history, stories and needs.  I am the first person to admit that I am stumbling a bit in the dark and am on a huge learning curve.  Therefore I really value your feedback and guidance.

In that spirit let me direct you to an amazing team who are all over this issue and most missional issues.  TEAR Australia are passionate about educating people and supporting equality and justice.   I personally know many of the team and they are just all around amazing humans.   This LINK will take you to some fabulous information and resources regarding NAIDOC week.  They give very practical suggestions about how you can help, subscribe to find out more.

“NAIDOC Week was initiated by the inspiring Aboriginal activist and Christian leader William Cooper, who asked churches to start praying for his people. As people of faith who care deeply about God’s vision for restoration and justice for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters let’s walk together as we revisit the original meaning of NAIDOC week. Featuring videos, blogs, reflections and prayers from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders”.  TEAR Australia

I encourage you to get involved.  Love Lisa.

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Grass Tree Gathering: Safina Stewart

 

 

 

 

The Fight for Justice in Australia

NAIDOC

Continuing in the spirit of the week of NAIDOC, I have posted this prayer written by Brooke Prentis and published on Common Grace.  This prayer acknowledges the struggles and injustices of the Australian First Nation people.  This blog is a social justice platform.  However, we cannot do the work of social justice on this planet if we do not first fight for the unification and justice of our first Nation people.  If we ignore their suffering we are hypocritical.

At the end of this prayer is a list of injustices that we can pray for and repent of.

The history of our nation deeply affects the present and our future.

For over 60,000 years, 300 Aboriginal nations with over 600 dialects of language dwelt on the continent we now call Australia. Over 2,000 generations of Aboriginal people lived and died here.

In 1770 Captain Cook landed on Possession Island and began the dangerous story of Australia, which for Aboriginal peoples is filled with dispossession, disease, death and ongoing disadvantage.

As Christians we know the reach of sin, how it smothers its way into everything. All Australians are harmed by what has happened to Aboriginal Australians.

Only together, with lament and grief, apologies and forgiveness, friendship and solidarity, can we build a strong reconciled Australia (Source).

We cannot say we did not know.

Common Grace is a movement of Christians who are passionate about Jesus and justice.

Bringing together Christians from many parts of the Church, the Common Grace community is rich in diverse understandings and perspectives on any given topic.

Yet at Common Grace, we share a fierce unity.

It is a unity that is birthed in our common experience of receiving the grace of Jesus. It is a unity that is continually forged by our common desire to be more like Jesus.

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26 January prayer

Written by Brooke Prentis, Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace

God of Holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, Papa Jesus,

We come before you today as a Christian community to pause and reflect with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.  We pause to take a moment to show compassion to Aboriginal people at this time of grief and grievance.  Whilst not all of us will understand this Lord, we ask that you help us to see, hear and feel the struggles of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.

We pray for strength and healing at this time that brings forth feelings of loss.  We recognise the loss of family, loss of land, and loss of freedom.  We say sorry for the times we have wronged Aboriginal people, the times we have not treated them with dignity, the times we have not stood up to racism, and the times we have not listened to their stories, their fight for justice, and their cry for compassion.

Dear Lord, we pray for a way that we can celebrate together, not as one unified group, but for a way that celebrates our diversity.  A way that encompasses all cultures, and celebrates and commemorates our past, both the good and the bad.

Dear Lord, we know that you are all seeing and all knowing.  We know that you have seen all that has gone on in this land since time began. We pray that you help all Australians to see as you have seen through all the pages of our history and our present and our future yet to come.

Dear Lord, we thank you for placing Aboriginal people here in this land, we thank you for their care and stewardship of your great creation for thousands of years.  We thank you for their survival against many odds. Dear Lord, may we learn to respect, appreciate, and acknowledge, the oldest living culture in the world.

Lord we ask all these things in your Almighty name, Amen.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Injustices

Compiled by Brooke Prentis, Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace

  • Invasion
  • Dispossession
  • Stolen Land
  • Stolen Wages
  • Stolen Generations
  • Lack of Treaty
  • Slavery
  • Lack of recognition of The Frontier Wars
  • Massacres
  • Genocide
  • Loss of Language
  • Lack of return of Ancestral Remains
  • Lack of protection of Sacred Sites
  • High rates of Prison incarceration
  • High rates of Juvenile Detention
  • Denied access to medical attention in custody
  • The NT Intervention
  • Paperless arrest laws
  • Forced removal from Homelands
  • Proposed nuclear waste dumps without consultation
  • Poverty
  • Racism
  • Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
  • The New Stolen Generation
  • Life expectancy gaps

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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