Key South Australian religious leaders were commended by the Presiding Magistrate this morning after attending Mount Barker Magistrates’ Court to face criminal charges of trespass. The Magistrate dismissed the religious leaders with no conviction and no fine, commenting “you are a credit to your faith, and an inspiration.”
Five Uniting Church members, in addition to representatives from the Quaker, Activate and Jewish communities in South Australia, were arrested on Monday 23 June after sitting and praying peacefully in Jamie Briggs’ Mount Barker Electorate Office in an attempt to seek the release of 938 children in detention and to put an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker treatment.
In a character reference addressed to the Presiding Magistrate, Uniting Church SA Moderator Dr Deidre Palmer commented, “a number of religious leaders participated in the vigil to draw attention to the plight of children affected by current government immigration policy. As Christians, we engage in these political processes with respect and care for all those involved.”
Dr Palmer went on to commend those involved with the peaceful protest, thanking them for “contributing to the common good of the wider South Australian community through compassion and advocacy for the most vulnerable people among us.”
For years the Uniting Church has spoken out against the increasingly brutal treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. Most recently the Uniting Church offered to care for asylum seekers in the community, writing to the Australian Government and offering sanctuary for all unaccompanied children being held on Christmas Island, offering an alternative to their being deported to Nauru.
After writing numerous letters, meeting with politicians, marching in the city and congregating on Parliament steps, the religious leaders engaged in non-violent action with a view to have children released from detention.
“We will continue to seek to challenge the government’s inhumane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers and encourage others to embrace a more welcoming response to those who seek asylum here,” Dr Palmer states.