May our slumber be shaken

“When an ordinary person with a good heart pays attention to our situation, they will surely feel our pain,” writes Mehdi Ali. 

For the life of me, I cannot understand how for so long our Prime Minister and senior government leaders have chosen to close their ears and hearts to the cries and pain of Mehdi Ali and others, who will by 2023 have spent a decade in the horror of Australian immigration detention.

I respect Mr Morrison is a fellow follower of Jesus, but I am at a total loss at his lack of compassion on this matter.

He could make a sensible, courageous and caring response today with little political consequence. He could even put some good spin on it if he wanted to.

Mehdi Ali could be living in the community today. He could be living in our house today! He would be very welcome. He has been held in detention since he was 15. He’s only 24, with so much life ahead of him, despite the trauma he has faced.

Some will be quick to point me again to so-called successful, tough immigration policies that turned back the boats, but that argument is old, stale and callous, and does little to help and care for people like Mehdi Ali today.

And the Proverbs writer of old, in a book our Prime Minister would know well, has some strong warnings about refusing to hear the cries of the oppressed, including people that our governments – Coalition and ALP – have inhumanely dealt with for political expediency. 

“You can notice a contradiction in my story,” Ali writes in this week’s edition of The Saturday Paper.“Some nights I cannot sleep because of the traumas of my past. On others I sleep because of the shred of hope I have left. This is the contradiction in my life, created by Australian authorities who have detained me [for nine years] and others with no clarity or certainty about our future. On the days I feel hope I can sleep. And on the days I don’t, I can’t. How can I get any further when I’m stuck between a difficult past and a blank future? I can’t go back to where I came from, and I can’t set myself free from this cage. So what’s next?

This is the haunting , soul-destroying question Mehdi Ali has been asking from detention for nine years.

Some of Ali’s fellow detainees in Melbourne’s Park Hotel hope the upcoming Federal election may lead to their release, but a weary Ali says ”elections hold no hope”. 

”I cannot wait for another election believing that it will mean the end of my detention. We must be released now, by this government … I am a human being who has been deprived of my basic rights because of one man’s power.”

I keep writing and advocating for Mehdi Ali and others, because without more and more Australian voices calling for an end to this horrible detention there will likely be no change. 

”Unless the people of Australia stand for us, we will not be released. The government knows that. It is why we’ve been a secret to most of the public for so long. When an ordinary person with a good heart pays attention to our situation, they will surely feel our pain. Imagine how our family suffers? Imagine how we suffer?”

There are many challenging and complex issues on the Prime Minister’s desk. This is no longer one of them. Politics and pride could be pushed aside today if the Prime Minister wanted too. I don’t see this issue as being about immigration policy any more; it’s now about leadership ego and stubbornness. Power misdirected always has an impact on broken people – physically, emotionally and mentally. 

When we put our head on the pillow tonight, may we be stirred by Mehdi Ali’s pain!

May we be shaken from our slumber and be heard on this horrible situation this week. Write or ring the offices of Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese this week and be one of the “ordinary people with a good heart” standing with Mehdi Ali and his fellow detainees.

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