Matthew 5:13-16 New International Version (NIV)
Salt and Light
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The recent hunger strikes and acts of self-mutilation of asylum seekers in Manus Island indicate the terrible conditions in which they live. These people are living in conditions in which they may consider death as a better option than living. Not only have there been allegations of abuse, and threat of rape, but simple necessities such as running water appear to be absent and processing times can last for years.
Furthermore, it is not illegal to seek asylum by boat in Australia (UN Refugee Convention and Australian Migration Act 1958), and majority of asylum seekers are found to be genuine refugees. Simply put, in my view, the Australian government is imprisoning refugees, including children, and treating them worse than criminals.
How can we, as a nation, claim to be the salt and light that Christ proclaims we should be (Matthew 5:13-16)?
When we no longer show compassion to those in need we reject not only the commandment to "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:30 - 31), but reject the role for compassion that Christ had for all of us, and the glory of God (Matthew 5:15). The out of hand rejection of asylum seekers reveals our collective fear of others.
Even if some asylum seekers are not genuine or represent a threat to us, Matthew 10:28 tells us: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
Christians should be voices for change, ready to stand for those in need such as the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce. When we lose this edge, our desire for justice and compassion (our saltiness and brightness) we become deserving of being "...thrown out and trampled underfoot" (Matthew 5:13).
May we show compassion reflecting the remarkable compassion that Christ had for us, and through this bring more to Christ. I hope that the body of Christ can join together, and illuminate the world – being voices for the sick, disenfranchised and needy. For without Christ, all of us are refugees from the Kingdom of God.
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist completing a PhD in the neurobiology of schizophrenia
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html