'I struggle to have kind thoughts about Abbott': who are the people behind Love Makes a Way?

Arrests at Senator Bridget McKenzie's Bendigo office (Supplied/Kate Ausburn) Source: (Supplied/Kate Ausburn)

They may all be involved in similar protests, but what has driven each of these usually law-abiding church-goers to risk arrest?

 

They may all be involved in similar protests, but what has driven each of these usually law-abiding church-goers to risk arrest? SBS spoke with a handful of the hundreds of people joining the “Love Makes a Way” movement.

Sister Jane Keough

For a nun, Sister Jane Keough seems rather sceptical about the power of prayer.

In fact, much about the 70-year-old Brigidine sister seems to be at odds with a Christian order more than 350 years in the making. Her attitudes towards politicians are at the heart of her contradictory views.

Sister Jane told SBS that the detention of asylum seekers and their children have forced her to reconsider her religion and what her responsibilities - as a nun and a human being - are.

“It was a huge challenge for me because I struggle to be Christian,” she says.

“I struggle to have kind thoughts about Abbott or Morrison or the government or people individually who are allowing these things to happen. It really forced me to go back to my beliefs as a Christian.”

Listen: Sister Jane Keough speaks with Stephanie Anderson.

 

Shane Fenwick

One month on Manus Island was enough to convince Shane Fenwick that something had to change.

The 23-year-old Sydney man spent the end of 2012 working with the Salvation Army at the Papua New Guinea immigration detention centre, an experience he says continues to weigh on his heart.

He was shocked by the contrast of the island’s beauty with what he called a “factory for mental illness”.

“There were new plane loads of asylum seekers coming in each week and we had to deal with lives,” he told SBS.

“The conditions themselves were quite depressing, but the worst thing I witnessed was the sense of hopelessness that the asylum seekers had for their situation. A lot of them were willing to endure these conditions if they knew they were going to have their claims processed properly and were going to be considered for refugee status, but the whole kind of no advantage framework – a lot of them were feeling hopeless.”

Listen: Shane Fenwick speaks with Stephanie Anderson

 

Rev. Brian Brown

His position as one of the leading figures in Australia’s religious circles was not enough to save Reverend Brian Brown from arrest.

The now-former head of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT drew on his youth spent fighting against apartheid in South Africa when he was arrested during a protest at Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Sydney office.

Rev. Brown told SBS that he had been involved in similar actions in the city of Durban, where he lived until he was 28 years old.

“It was an extremely challenging place,” he says.

“For a white child growing up there, it was like a fool’s paradise. We had a very protected and enjoyable upbringing, but you just couldn’t ignore what was happening to the black people around you. Gradually that dawned on me, that we were perpetuating a very unjust situation, even simply by being there.”

Listen: Rev. Brian Brown speaks with Stephanie Anderson. 

Margaret Coffey

After more than 70 years as a law-abiding, church-attending “model citizen”, Margaret Coffey has had her first run in with the law.

The 74-year-old Catholic was arrested in August after taking part in a protest at the Sydney office of Treasurer Joe Hockey, where she and other Love Makes a Way participants were calling for the release of asylum seeker children.

Margaret told SBS it wasn’t something she entered into lightly.

“I’ve never been civilly disobedient in my life,” she says.

“It took me about a week to make my mind up about this, because I thought I didn’t really want to get myself into any further trouble at this stage of my life.”

In the end, it was her own experiences as a psychiatric nurse working with refugees that cemented her decision.

Listen: Margaret Coffey speaks with Stephanie Anderson.

Rev. Geoff Broughton

Changing the debate around asylum seekers starts at home for Reverend Geoff Broughton.

The Anglican minister has been involved in a protest at Tony Abbott’s office, but he says his target isn’t the Prime Minister – it’s people like himself.

Rev. Broughton told SBS his motivation for getting involved with Love Makes A Way was to encourage conservative Christians to go beyond simply “writing to politicians”.

“There comes a time when it seems, because of inaction or a lack of response, that actually some sort of civil disobedience or direct action is required,” he says.

“I guess one of the things I was trying to shift were some of the perceptions within the Christian community… This isn’t just an issue for lefty, progressive Christians.”

Listen: Rev. Geoff Broughton speaks with Stephanie Anderson. 

Source SBS

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