imagesA declaration before I commence this article… I am not a religious person. I was born a Hindu but have been an atheist from around the age of 12. I grew up (the first ten years of my life) in a Muslim nation, Brunei. The next five years were in a predominantly Hindu country (India). I then came here to Australia and have spent the last 40 years here. I went mainly to Christian based schools. I have read the various holy books of most of the religions. The purpose of these readings has been to inform myself of the teachings of the various faiths. So take on board my comments about some of the religious doctrines that I have cited below.

This is Holy Week. Herein is a description of what Holy Week is about:

“Holy Week is most definitely a very sacred time of the year, for it is now that we will commemorate and remember the last week of Jesus’ life on this earth. These are the days leading up to the great Easter Feast. The Lenten season of sacrifice and self-denial is about to come to an end, but this coming week is extremely important for all Christians. The greatest focus of the week is the Passion (suffering) and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it.

Historical documents tell us that as early as the fourth century the Church celebrated this “Great Week” with a feeling of profound sanctity. It begins with Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The central feature of the service proper to this day, as it was in the earliest times, is the procession of palms. The palms are blessed and are then borne in procession to the church, where an entry is made with a certain amount of ceremony, after which the Mass is celebrated. The other notable and very ancient feature of the present Palm Sunday service is the reading of the Gospel of the Passion by three readers.

Especially important for Catholics is the Easter Triduum. This is the three days just before Easter. On Holy Thursday, we re-enact the Lord’s Last Supper, which He shared with His apostles on the night He was betrayed and arrested. This is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the entire liturgical year. At the Mass, the priest will wash the feet of twelve men, just as Jesus did. Also on this night, priests all over the world will renew their sacred vows. This is because, at the Last Supper, Jesus not only instituted the Mass (Eucharist) but also the ministerial priesthood.”

So I look back at the events that I have dealt with in the last few days and try and understand what “Holy Week” means to us here in Australia.

A week or ten days ago I was made aware of the plight of the Fonseka family. Details of what happened in that case can be read here: In brief this is what has happened to date:

“A Sri Lankan family who want to work in a Christian crisis centre in remote Australia say their daughter was refused a temporary visa because she has Down syndrome.

The Immigration Department issued a temporary work visa to eight-year-old Eliza Fonseka’s parents, but not to the child, because she was considered to be a “significant cost to the Australian community in the areas of health care”.

Eliza’s father Angelo Fonseka said his daughter was in good health and not on medication, and the family had Australian private health insurance to cover any medical costs.

“We have given in writing that we will take responsibility for Eliza, she doesn’t need any support from the government,” Mr Fonseka said.

“In Sri Lanka we are not relying on any government benefits. As parents we are supplying everything. If we migrated to Australia we will do the same thing.”

I am currently dealing with that matter through a couple of organisations, National Ethnic Disability Alliance and the Australian Cross Disability Alliance. Down syndrome Australia’s Chair Angus Graham and his colleagues have taken the lead in this matter and are discussing with us various options that may exist.

A few days after this, I was made aware of a racist tirade that was perpetrated by a person here in Perth against an African community member. Details of the tirade are here:

Yesterday my friend Randa Abdel Fatah sent me this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. The most relevant quotes from the article are probably these:

“As we got closer to the car, we could hear what they were yelling: “F—— Pakis, you f—— Pakis, get out of here.” They decided to continue with a rather charming chant of “f— f— Pakis”   over and over again. My sister and I decided to dance to their chant, showing them that their racism didn’t really bother us. It didn’t, you see, we’re kind of used to being yelled at, unfortunately. It has become par for the course if you are visibly Muslim.

Also, it is important to note, we are not Pakistani – they couldn’t even get their racism right.”

Last night a friend of mine, the Anti Discrimination Commissioner in Tasmania sent me details of this matter:

Townsville nurse Maria Sevilla and her son Tyrone, who have been in Australia for eight years, had a skilled working visa rejected by the Immigration Department because of her son’s autism.

Tyrone was diagnosed in 2008.

The letter said Tyrone may be a burden on the taxpayer if he becomes a citizen later in life.

The Townsville Hospital nurse has appealed to the Migration Review Tribunal but it too has rejected the application.

Because the application was rejected they could be deported in 28 days.

So we will have to pull out the usual processes of trying to arrange petitions, online campaigns and other strategies to convince the Minister for Immigration that the case is worthy of his consideration and overturning.

And tonight on the day that Jesus is said to have been crucified I will be attending a vigil. The vigil will be about how each of us will deal with the events that have led to the currently near death status of Saeed Hassanloo. More details of the issues are here:

The most relevant part of Gerry Georgatos’ excellent article is here:

“Mr Hassanloo will be an immigration death in custody that the Australian Government and the Australian nation should have avoided. They are prepared to let him die. They have damaged the national consciousness so deeply that this young man’s death will be laid on him by so many Australians. But many other Australians do care and deeply so, some with a burning hatred of their Government. If he dies, he will be classified as a suicide or within some other unnatural death classification.

Mr Hassanloo was transferred from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre on March 10 to Royal Perth Hospital. He saw only hopelessness, after years of effectively being incarcerated and continued his hunger strike. He arrived with his brother in 2009 but recently they were intentionally separated by the embedded cruelness of the Australian Immigration mob. You would think they would have his brother by his bedside.

The Hassanloo brothers have battled forlornly for six years for a visa. They left Iran for an Australian nightmare that they never expected. If you want to know racism these days come find it in Australia.”

When I then look back at my activities this week, there appears to be a severe disconnect between the reality and the aspirations of Holy Week. We claim to be a “Christian” nation. However, one has to question the commitment to Christian principles when you come across these events. These are of course only the events that have come to my attention. No doubt there are a host of others that are being played out across the nation.

My overriding question today is “Are we a Christian nation?” I suspect that the most common answer will be the one that forms the title of this article.