John Menadue. Suffer the little children to come unto me…

Aug 3, 2014

Well, not so if they are Palestinian children or asylum seeker children in our detention centres.

At last counting there were 1,230 Palestinians killed in Gaza as a result of 3,000 or more air and artillery strikes. 56 Israelis have died. Close to 1,000 of those Palestinians killed were civilians, including children. Only three Israeli civilians died. Just imagine the outcry of the Israeli lobby if those figures were reversed and 1000 Israelis had been killed… Clearly the Israel lobby and many others don’t regard Palestinian civilians and children of equal value to their own.

In her article ‘Grief grips Gaza’ in the SMH on August 2, Ruth Pollard tells the searing story of the carnage in Gaza. For link to story, see below.

The Israelis and their apologists around the world, including President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott, say that Israel has a right to defend itself. That is true, but it is only a very small part of the truth. They refuse to honestly admit that the core of the problem in Palestine is that land was stolen by Israel from the Palestinians in 1967. There will be no peace without justice. There will be no justice until Israel withdraws from the land it has stolen from the Palestinian people.

But whilst this political impasse continues with the support of the Israeli lobby, the people of Palestine are suffering an appalling fate.

Closer to home we have also had a searing account of the treatment of children in our detention centres. The Human Rights President, Professor Gillian Triggs has told us of the misery and trauma of children in our detention centres. She has been vividly supported by Elizabeth Elliott who is Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney and Consultant Paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. She accompanied Professor Triggs to Christmas Island. Professor Elliott has described the mental and physical symptoms of disease of children in detention where they are beyond health and hope. She has spoken of escalating rates of mental ill health. The distress was expressed as overwhelming sadness and hopelessness and manifest most dramatically by the high prevalence of self-harm in young mothers and psychological symptoms in their children.

Professor Elliott described how the children expressed their mood through drawings. These drawings were bleak and about guns, barbed wire and tears.

By way of contrast, my wife and I visited the Archibald Prize exhibition last week which featured the ‘Young Archies’ – portraits by 5 to 15 year olds. These beautiful portraits were in such contrast to what Professor Elliott has shown us by children on Christmas Island. The Young Archies of the same age as the asylum seekers drew beautiful portraits of people they loved and who loved them – mainly family. The contrast between the two lots of drawings highlighted very graphically the trauma we are inflicting on children in our care. And to think that Scott Morrison is the legal guardian of these children in detention!

There is not just institutional violence against children in the Catholic Church and other institutions. It is happening now in our detention centres, this very day.

For God’s sake, for the children’s sake and for our own sake, stop this inhumanity both in Gaza and in our own detention centres. The tears of the children will not wash away our guilt. At the very least we should stop wringing our hands and do something about it.

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