Throughout history we’ve often wondered why men and women who hold strong religious beliefs often fail to put into practice the basic tenets of their sacred texts. This is of course particularly perplexing when it comes to those in positions of political power, especially when they make a big deal of their spiritual faith and commitment. Look no further in recent years than Donald Trump!
Here in Australia, the latest PM, Scott Morrison is a staunch Pentecostal but is on record as saying “the Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one.” Much has been written in recent years about the morality of Morrison’s treatment of refugees as Immigration Minister when stacked up against his Christian creed of charity and compassion.
A recent skit on the ABC’s Tonightly program, which satirised this apparent incongruity, brought the usual predictable uproar on social media. The musical sketch featured a couple of Hillsong style musicians spruiking lines such as:
“We love Jesus, Jesus, but not refugees-us, if you wanna win votes then you gotta stop boats.
To do what pleases Jesus deny them all visas — and you can’t get more Christian than that.”
To give him credit Morrison refrained from entering the Daily Telegraph inspired furore stating, “The ABC can be numpties every now and then but my faith teaches me to love each other and to turn the other cheek.”
Nevertheless the situation with the 900 or more refugees still languishing on Nauru seems to get worse by the day. Whilst it’s Australia’s making, the Nauruans themselves must bear a high degree of responsibility for the appalling misery they willingly host on their tiny island.
Once again the contradiction between religious beliefs and political practice is glaringly obvious despite the current blanket media ban. If ever a country has sold their soul to the devil for a helluva lot more than the biblical thirty pieces of silver it’s the Republic Of Nauru. The 11,000 odd residents are split between two-thirds Protestant and one-third Roman Catholic. Like many Pacific Islands colonised with missionary zeal, their churches are enthusiastically well attended.
During the 80s and 90s, Nauruans were per capita amongst the wealthiest people in the world as their phosphate royalties flooded in. Much of the money was invested in a billion dollar plus trust but less than two decades later it had dwindled to a mere $138 million. A series of disastrous and highly speculative investments had all but bankrupted the country. The once endless supply of guano had all but disappeared and the country faced a bleak future with no other means of income. The moonscape left behind by years of phosphate mining could not even sustain some basic subsistence agriculture.
Enter the Australian Government and the millions of dollars that flow with the introduction of a detention camp on one of the smallest and most remote islands in the world. Perhaps only the rocky outcrop of Pitcairn Island could have provided a greater sense of isolation and detachment from the world at large.
For the time being Nauruans clearly have a vested interest in the refugee presence on their island and the millions Australia keeps pumping into their economy. If there is any moral debate amongst Nauruans themselves about hosting Australia’s detention centre we are unlikely to ever hear about it, given the lengths to which they have gone to keep the media out – with Australia’s blessing of course!