Editorial by Maree Marsh csb, KM Trustee Co-Chair
A few days ago I saw the inspiring film The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe. This film follows the creation of a theatre production of the same name, developed with a cast of women who came as refugees to Australia. It is a celebration of the remarkable spirits of Yarrie, Aminata, Yordy and Rosemary, women from war torn countries who tell their experiences of sexual violence, kidnap and fear. The emphasis is on the experience of the women, with the implication that storytelling has a therapeutic value – that testifying to trauma is a step towards leaving it behind.
While these four women relive their individual experiences many elements of their stories will resonate with a number of refugees who have escaped violence and conflict to find a safer home. Some gritty and graphic archival footage of violent civil war gives us insights into the life that these women have left behind. Experiences of tragedy, pain, humour, poignancy, emotional struggle and joy are peppered throughout this inspiring film.
There is also a quiet, but strong, message about Australia's responsibilities when it comes to refugees. Those associated with the film are hoping schools will show it to senior students. I can highly recommend it.
As I watched the film my thoughts returned to the recent General Meeting of Kildare Ministries Community Work, Wellsprings for Women in Dandenong. I imagine that many women who find a place of community and warmth at Wellsprings have endured similar experiences to the women in the film. Veronica Hassett, Manager of Wellsprings spoke of the Wellsprings aim for 2016 – “to ensure that we continue to provide a safe place for women who find themselves isolated, and connect them to the community.”
Veronica related a story about joining some of the women enjoying a laugh in the kitchen. They were from different countries talking about medicines, speaking English with different accents and with varying abilities but fully understanding one other. One of the women said, “This is my medicine – ‘Wellsprings the water of healing’ laughter, peacefulness, people very friendly, and nice to hear English language being spoken with different accents and that gives me courage… We are left with an appreciation of the significance of Wellsprings in the lives of the women. Reflecting over the year we have seen ample expressions of the Kildare Ministries value of Compassion - ‘walking with and having empathy for all’ in our ministries.
In 2017 Courage is the Value that we will be emphasising. We join our words to those of Bishop Vincent Long in saying: Where Australia is in terms of its treatment of asylum seekers should galvanise us into action… We cannot be salt and leaven if we allow our Christian conscience to be desensitized by the inequality, injustice and inhumanity in our society and in the world…May our endeavour to replace the culture of fear and indifference with that of encounter and acceptance be brought to fulfilment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity. (102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2016)
Maree Marsh csb
Co-Chair Kildare Ministries