I had a challenging…disturbing…slightly ‘hot’ conversation with an old friend recently. She’s great lady who has a deep faith. We came to heads over a few things but I felt particularly ‘miffed’ when she appealed for me to ‘come back to the old way’ to ‘interpret the bible the right way’ (my interpretation of her words). I felt like I was being called back to a faith I had that was very isolationist and exclusive, excluding ‘sinners’ and people of other religions, people who are not like heterosexual me, not welcoming of difference. I felt a feeling that my faith had shifted in some way. No, I’m no universalist. I just feel we can spend our time and energy as believers highlighting ‘difference, and wrong’ rather than pointing out common ground and places of connection. Then today I read these words by Richard Rohr in a daily reflection that encouraged me. Maybe they will you, or even unsettle you, who knows;

As we’ve explored over the last several weeks—through reflections on the Cosmic Christ, Nature, and the Perennial Tradition—there is no meaningful separation between sacred and secular, physical and psychic, human and divine. They are two sides of one coin. There is within every being an inherent longing for and capacity to experience this union. Everything really does “belong” because all things are finally connected to the same Creator and thus to one another. We bear a family resemblance, as it were!

Why then are humans so prone to excluding and separating? Why do we spend so much time deciding who does not belong in our religious, political, and personal worlds? How can we get everything to belong in our own heads and hearts?

Let’s first understand this: Humans have a deep and legitimate need for an identity inside of this huge cosmos. To develop a healthy ego, we must differentiate and individuate; we must know we’re special and find a place where we are loved and where we belong without needing to prove ourselves. This is our launch pad. [1]

Ken Wilber suggests that religion has two very important and different functions to support human development. First, religion creates meaning for the separate self. [2] It offers myths and rituals that help us make sense of and endure what Shakespeare would call “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” You need to first feel special and chosen to launch beyond yourself. This feels like a paradox, but it really isn’t. It is the nature of all growth.

But if we stop at this level we do not come to higher levels of consciousness, love, or transformation. For that we need the function of mature spirituality (which I’ll discuss tomorrow). Many people stop at this first stage of fortifying the separate self. Being part of a superior group, ethnicity, or class, and having correct religious or moral beliefs often becomes a cover for remaining basically selfish and narcissistic. Such folks end up re-enacting the first half of life over and over again, perpetuating exclusion and violence to protect their small field of self.

Some kind of law, structure, loyalty, and a sense of chosenness (very old fashioned virtues) are usually necessary to create a strong ego “container” and this is the appropriate task of “the first half of life.” We see God, for example, forming special covenants with the people of Israel and giving them many laws, which finally show themselves to be quite arbitrary and sometimes even destructive if taken too seriously.

Good parents do everything they can to validate and affirm their child’s specialness, which ideally gives children the dignity and self-confidence to move beyond the need for outer sources of belonging and identity. Now that is a paradox! A good parent (or any leader) eventually puts himself or herself out of a job.

Unfortunately, many people never move beyond the need for more infilling and never get to the outpouring which should be the natural result of a healthy ego. Basically, they never get to love. As long as they remain in this self-enclosed and self-referential position, all “otherness” is a threat to their specialness. They will need to prove and make sure that others do not belong, so they can hold center stage. They spend their whole life protecting their boundaries, which isn’t much of a life. The container becomes the substitute for the contents.

 

As a young teen living in Perth in 1981, the plight of refugees fleeing from Vietnam, or anywhere else for that matter, was not on my radar. But I had grown up in a loving church community called the Wembley Downs Church of Christ, it was here, and in my family, that I am sure the seeds of compassion for those in need were first planted. I know the people in the story below personally. I’ve eaten with them and (not for a while now) spent quality time with them. My passion for seeing desperate people be given a chance in this great country, no doubt, was borne in the following story;

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In 1968, two years after qualifying to become a high school maths teacher, Kiem Do was conscripted at the age of 21. He successfully passed an exam that qualified him to join the Air-force and he quickly rose through the ranks to become the Chief Air Terminal Controller in Danang airbase with the rank of Lieutenant.  During this time the war between Vietnam and the United States (depending on who you ask) was raging and continued for 20 years.

Kiem was in the Airforce from 1968-1974 and during this time, in 1973 he met Ky-Anh who was a school teacher, they got married in the same year (it was love at first sight)! They welcomed their first child, Do Dinh Dang Khoa, the following year.

 

In 1974, when North Vietnam took over South Vietnam many allies were captured and placed in “re-education” camps – these camps were really prisoner of war camps (enduring extremely harsh physical and mental conditions).  The minimum sentence for all Prisoners of War (POW) was 3 years and the higher the rank the greater the solider would be held, some cases up to 15 years.

 

One of the things the prisoners were required to do was to write down details of their involvement in the war every month. If a prisoner’s story changed from month to month, their term of stay would be increased. Imagine the mental state of the prisoners required to divulge details of their “disloyalty” regularly.

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Due to Kiem’s high ranking position in the South Vietnamese Army, Kiem was treated very poorly in the camp – his living conditions were horrific.  With little to eat and forced to do continual hard labour under harsh conditions, Kiem lost a considerable amount of weight. By way of example, POWs were forced to clear forests for farming and harvest lumber for furniture making. Sadly, quite a number of POWs died from illness, starvation, exhaustion and purpose to live. These POW camps were designed to strip their prisoners of dignity and their will to live – their biggest torture method was to slowly diminish their prisoner’s hopes. During his time in the camp, Kiem found it hard to imagine that there could ever be a bright future for him and his family.

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Ky-Anh and Khoa during this time were refuged back in Saigon at Ky-Anh’s family home where all her nine siblings and their families lived under one roof.  With food, resources and money being scarce, you can imagine the family squabbles Ky-Anh would have had to deal with. Saigon during this time sustained a great deal of destruction and loss. Ky-Anh lived in fear and saw terrible effects of the war first hand, including human casualty.

 

After three long years, Kiem’s name was called out for release. While detained at POW camp, prisoners wanted to hear their names called out on two occasions. The first is to announce the prisoner’s release, and the second was to clean the pots that the rice was cooked in because it meant that the prisoner could eat the burnt rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. Kiem was never told why he was released and he certainly did not want to hang around to ask!

 

Kiem slowly made his way back to Saigon, walking majority of the way.  Kiem was met with yet another hurdle. All districts of Saigon were controlled by the North Vietnamese Communist Party. The Communist authorities still considered Kiem as a POW and did not permit him to reside in the city. Unable to live in the city, Kiem continued to be separated from Ky-Anh and his son Khoa.

 

He was forced to live on the outskirts of the city and was only allowed to hold menial jobs. As a POW, Kiem was constantly told that his children would not be allowed to attend any form of higher education and there would be no opportunities for them. He and his children would be barred from holding any job with any social high standing of influence.

 

Ky-Anh and Khoa’s living conditions were getting desperate as their living arrangements had not improved and Ky-Anh’s siblings had begun to quarrel. Imagine living with 9 adults and 4 kids, all needing to be fed and clothed with little resources to do so.  Her family were on food rations and she was unable to significantly contribute to the household as she had no means of earning money, she had a young child to look after and a husband who was considered a pariah by authorities. And to make matters worse, Ky-Anh was being ostracised.

 

Kiem managed to secure a job at a pineapple plantation on the outskirts of Saigon. Desperate to see Ky-Anh and Khoa, Kiem would often sneak into the city, walking all the way from the plantation.

 

After working on the planation for 1.5 years, Kiem met a man of Chinese and Vietnamese decent who asked if he knew how to use a compass and read a map. Fortunately due to Kiem’s training in the Airforce, he had acquired the skills of using a compass and reading maps.  However, during this time owning a compass or even talking about a compass would put one’s life in danger. Luckily Kiem had a friend who he knew would be willing to sell this man a compass. This set things in motion and they agreed to work together to escape Vietnam.

 

Escaping Vietnam was not something for the faint hearted. The Communist Party thoroughly patrolled the waterways and kept a close watch on residents living in regions surrounding the waterways closely for suspicious activity – mainly the shipyards where boats were constructed. Even moving Ky-Anh and Khoa from the city into the region to prepare for the escape was extremely dangerous in itself.

 

Kiem, Ky-Anh and Khoa attempted to escape Vietnam 7 times. But each time they were about to attempt their escape, a whistle blower would raise the alarm and they would not get very far. On their 8th attempt, with a new crew and a 11 meter boat installed with a repurposed engine from a wheat grinder, they successfully fled Vietnam.

 

The details of the escape was delicately planned and kept a secret. Kiem himself did not know when the family would be travelling until a core member of the crew informed him a week out from the day. The family had less than a week to prepare for the potentially life ending journey. The fact that Kiem, Ky-Anh and Khoa could not disclose to their extended family members of their plans to leave, made it even excruciatingly more difficult.

 

In the darkness of night, the family sadly left their home and made their way down to the Mekong region to the town of Tra Vinh, to meet up with the organisers. People travelling out of Saigon were required to have documentation issued from the Government outlining their travel. Kiem, Ky-Anh and Khoa had no such documentation, so every bus and ferry ride was extremely stressful.

 

Anyone who was found to be travelling to the Mekong region for the purpose or suspicion of escaping Vietnam were imprisoned, regardless of gender or age. During the family’s travel to the Mekong region they had a few close encounters with the authorities. However, luckily for the family there was usually a large movement of people in this region so the Communist patrols could not check everyone in the region. The family stayed in Tra Vinh at a acquaintance’s house while they awaited for favourable weather condition to travel.

 

Once they received the signal, the plan was to load thirty adults and ten children onto the eleven meter boat, docked halfway downstream at the mouth of the river. This area was usually well patrolled by the authorities especially during calm nights, so the plan was to move small groups of 5-6 people at a time, by rowing small boats to the main boat docked downstream. This operation was extremely risky as these waters were well patrolled, not only by the Communist authorities but also desperate locals seeking to claim reward money if they notified the authorities of escapees. The most difficult part was ensuring that the children were kept extremely quiet during the transfer.

 

Once everyone was transferred into the main boat, Kiem and the crew slowly navigated the boat out towards the open sea. The noise of the engine was smothered by sandbags and channelled into the water. About 100 meters into the journey a patrol boat headed up stream towards their boat. The crew agreed that if they were spotted that they would make a dash for freedom, even though they all understood the potential risk and consequences of getting shot at. They all knew that it was suicidal because their repurposed engine was not going to be able to out run the patrol boat, they had no choice at this point. As the crew held their breath, the patrol boat brushed passed them with no more than 5 meters between them. It was truly amazing that they were not intercepted, shot down or captured during this close encounter.

 

Once out of the river into the open seas, they headed in the direction of Malaysia.  March was the most favourable time of the year to escape Vietnam as the waters were much calmer. This was particularly important given that the boat they were travelling on wasn’t built to withstand poor weather conditions.

 

They travelled for 5 days and 5 nights. What an ordeal for Khoa, a little boy just 6 years of age! They had to survive on small portions of rice, but with a combination of the cramped conditions, anxiety, fear and sea-sickness no one ate.

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(Google Images)

On the 5th evening, Kiem noticed a light beaming from a light house off the coast of Malaysia. Uncertain about the depth of the water and whether there were large rocks at the base of sea, Kiem directed the crew to anchor the boat in a little cove. They watched the path taken by fisherman in hopes that they could lead them safely to shore, but Kiem knew that the fishing boats were too fast for them to follow.

 

The following morning, the crew got long bamboo sticks to probe the water to estimate the seabed depth whilst looking out for protruding jagged rocks. The crew navigated the boat as close to shore as possible. When it was safe enough, the crew and passengers jumped into the water and walked to shore. A local Malaysian from the island stood at shore and welcomed them. Everyone was exhausted, relieved and overwhelmed with so many mixed emotions. Some of joy and others of fear, but one thing they all knew was that they now had freedom. At this point, Kiem, Ky-Anh and Khoa finally saw a future for themselves as a unified family which they had been deprived of for so long.

 

The Immigration Department of Malaysia had predicted that Vietnamese refugees would be arriving from the east coast. The Malaysian government were happy to welcome Vietnamese refugees and agreed to process the refugees’ documentation.

 

All the crew and passengers were transferred by bus to their refugee processing camp in Malaysia. The camp was very basic, but everyone recalled it to be a place filled with positive energy. People had found a renewed sense of hope and aspiration for brighter futures. Meaningful traditional Vietnamese music was played over the camp speakers every day during sunset, whilst it sadly reminded everyone of home and loved ones they left behind, everyone knew how blessed they were to be given the opportunity to wake up each day with the knowledge that they had a sense of control over their destiny. This was a privilege that so many others have sought and lost their lives trying to pursue and for others will never have the opportunity to know freedom.

 

The camp was built with a few small temporary classrooms for the kids and adults to study basic conversational English. Whilst awaiting for processing both Ky-Anh and Khoa attended the school. Having worked with American soldiers during the war, Kiem knew basic conversational English. Instead Kiem assisted in the wood workshop which a Vietnamese refugee had established as he had been at the camp for a very long time. The local camp workers supplied thin plywood and small hand saws for the workshop. The workshop produced plywood pictures (before the likes of 3D printing and laser cutters) and ornaments, including timber replica model boats, which were sold to the local markets in return for small amounts of money.

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Given Kiem’s service in the Airforce with the United States allies, him and his family was given priority to migrate to the United States. However, Kiem felt that United States always seemed to be involved in conflict (he’s not wrong there) and he did not wish to see his family go through anymore wars, so he waited to see if other countries would offer his family the opportunity to resettle.

 

As side note, Kiem recalls an interview he saw on television in Vietnam during the war. He remembers watching Henry Kissinger the then Secretary of the United States under the President Richard Nixon. In this interview he said that if he could live anywhere in the world he would live in Australia. From this point, Kiem knew he wanted to raise his family in Australia because for a prominent diplomat like Kissinger who was well travelled, highly educated and informed, to publically announce that Australia was the best place in world was something significant. Australia was no doubt in Kiem’s mind and heart a place of peace and hope.

 

Kevin Sharp (who, the Do Family, now endearingly refer to him as Uncle Kevin) – was a member of the Wembley Downs Church of Christ. He had read and seen something about boat loads of refugees escaping war torn Vietnam and heading to the east coast of Malaysia and was disturbed by what he saw.  It was in 1981 when he was moved to do something about this tragedy.

 

Kevin presented his case to the Church and suggested we rescue a family and bring them to Australia from the Refugee Camp in Malaysia. He wanted to give a sponsor a family to give them the opportunity to start a new life, a life that we all at some point take for granted.

 

The Australian Immigration Department (under Malcolm Frazer’s Prime Ministership) was involved in sponsorship process. They selected 3 family profiles who were residing in the Malaysian refugee camp to the Church – the Church was to choose 1 family to sponsor. The Church was faced with a hard task and made their decision purely on the photographs that they were provided. The Church chose a family comprising of a well-educated man, along with his wife and son who were in desperate need of a new beginning in a country that could offer many opportunities and possibilities. The Do family had been selected.

 

It took 3 months for the Wembley Downs Church to get the Do’s house in Scarborough organised.

On the 11th of July 1982, the Do family were notified that all was prepared in Perth and they were to leave Malaysia and head to their new life in the land of hopes, dreams and freedom, Australia.

 

Three days later on the 14th of July, the Do family arrived in Perth. Kevin and Fay, [my Aunty], nervously waited at the airport to meet the family that they had sponsored. The flight was filled with refugees who had been successfully sponsored by different churches and organisations.

 

Kevin and Fay distinctly remember seeing a little family coming towards them with all their worldly possessions in a small torn suitcase and under Kiem’s arm was a timber boat, a handmade replica of the boat that they left Vietnam in, which he presented to Kevin as a small token of his gratitude.

 

Perth welcomed the family with one of its coldest winter nights! Coming from humid Malaysia, they were not adequately prepared for such cold weather. Warm clothing was given to the family as they were bundled into a bus with the other refugees and was transferred to Graylands Immigration Centre to start their new life in Australia. At that time, Graylands was used as a holding place for quarantining newly arrived refugees. Here the refugees were involved in an orientation and assimilation program covering language and culture for a period of 6 weeks – this was supposed to be a soft-introduction to living in Perth, WA. After the 6 weeks, the Do family were free to take up residence in the home the Church prepared for them on Scarborough Beach road. When they were transported to their new home, their first reaction was of astonishment and disbelieve that this little flat was so gracefully and generously provided for them.  And it was from that moment this family the Do’s become part of my family.

Over the years I came to see this family as just another family connected to my family, but beautifully different;

  • We had fun with the language barriers.
  • My Mum drove Ky-Anh to the hospital when she was in labour.
  • Ky-Anh learnt to swim in our pool.
  • Khoa went off to school, not being able to speak a word of English.
  • He played basketball in our church team with Dad as the coach.
  • We had fun eating delicious authentic Vietnamese food before there was any of these authentic Vietnamese Restaurants in Perth.
  • We had fun watching their three children grow up, awarded university degrees, getting married, having children, receiving professional recognitions and national education awards.

 

Our little Church with a big heart gave a family a new start in life.

Khoa is now married with three kids: Zachary (10), Amelia (8) and Elysha (2). He currently holds the position of Associate Professor at Curtin University within the School of Built Environment and Design.

 

The middle daughter born in Australia, Gina is married with one daughter, Emily (6) and is currently residing and working in Geraldton. She is the Deputy Headmaster in Nagel Catholic College High School.

 

Christina, the youngest daughter also born in Australia is married and recently had a baby boy Noah only 8 months ago. She is a qualified lawyer and Lecturer in the Curtin Law School. She is due to commence her Doctorate at the University of Western Australia next year.

 

It has been a truly amazing journey to date for the Do family and those who have been involved in the whole process. It is a story of how a little kindness goes such a long way, if we only dare to care.

 

There is an old Chinese proverb that: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills”. The Do family would like to publicly thank the Wembley Downs Church of Christ and all our church family for their unconditional generosity, kindness and love. Kiem says;

Thank you for building windmills and not walls. Your kindness gave a little refugee family hope and a future where there was none. We are forever grateful that you chose us and we found you!

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Ky-Anh and Kiem Do in October 2016.

 

*Postscript – At the time of publication there are 1233 people in Australia’s off shore detention centres Nauru and Manus who have been told there is no hope of ever placing their feet on our great land. I wonder if there are families with stories like our friends – The Do family, amongst them? I’m sure there are. I wonder if there are any churches and community groups in Australia who will ‘carry’ refugees (no matter how they get here) through the tough years of settlement in a new land? I KNOW there are!

I read this is a recent daily devotional from Richard Rohr. I thought it profound and practical enough to re-post it here.

Forgiveness is an act of letting go. When we forgive we do not forget the harm someone caused or say that it does not matter. But we release bitterness and hatred, freeing ourselves to move on and make choices grounded in our strength rather than victimisation. Forgiveness opens our closed hearts to give and receive love fully.

Jack Kornfield offers a wonderful meditative practice of forgiveness:

[Sit] comfortably. Allow your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven—not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. . . . Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.

Asking Forgiveness of Others
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion.” Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Offering Forgiveness to Yourself
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly and unknowingly.” Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”

Offering Forgiveness to Those Who Have Hurt or Harmed You
Recite: “There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed.” Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness whenever your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”

Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving-kindness. [1]

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Blaming people is as old as history. The poetic stories surrounding the creation account found in Judaeo/Christian writing shows the story of God asking Adam, “who ate the forbidden fruit?”

It was the woman who you put here, it’s her fault!” (Man has blamed God or women for most of their issues since…I’m told ;-))

There is the ancient Hebrew story of sacrificial goats, one is killed and the blood poured on the other which is sent out to die in the wilderness, representing the taking away of blame and guilt of the people. This is where we get the term ‘scapegoat‘.

  • Mobs and individuals have ‘scapegoated’, laid blame on, (not just) innocent people forever.
  • Kids in the playgrounds gang up and bully the ‘looser’.
  • Insecure bosses lay their ‘issues’ on a worker,
  • Workers gang up and lay their blame on a peer.  
  • We often seek to blame and shame/scapegoat through gossip and criticism.

It’s feels easier than owning it, easier than dealing with our ‘shit’ – just lay it on someone else and I feel better…for a while. This happens in mobs from Egypt to Baghdad, it happens in workplaces from New York to Balcatta.

The cross of Christ was all about scapegoating, the Romans and Jews all had something to lay on him, but as it turns out, all of man-kind did. Violence seems to be our default position, this was exposed in the cross of Christ. “No more”…is what the cross says.

When we own our insecurities, when we discover the pointlessness of the ‘blame game’, the pointlessness of repeated violence, when we grow in awareness of our ‘murderous ways’ – then and only then do we really get along and get some serious living done!

More photos here.

Video here.

How does an extrovert manage to spend 5 whole days only seeing one other person? Fortunately for me the other person was my much loved brother Clint, but the couple who showed up to Pine Valley Hut on the fifth evening of our 7 days in the Tasmanian wilderness certainly were greeted with my fullest attention, a warm coal fire and lots of stories!

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Five days previously Clint and I had arrived in Hobart at 9.30am on Saturday morning after an all night flight from Perth, a friend collected us from the airport handing over what was to become our “favourite pieces of equipment” – 2 pairs of NEOS Overboots on loan from a mate in Victoria. Our Transport man, Connell, also supplied us with stove fuel and a three hour drive to Lake St Claire Visitors Centre where we just managed to jump on an exiting ferry. It was a bit embarrassing, we looked like amateurs with snow shoes and water bottles falling out all over the place! Just past the jetty drop off point was Narcissus Hut, here took stock of our senses, repacked our bags and donned our water proofs for the 3 hour walk in the heavy rain to our staging post for the adventures of the coming week – Pine Valley Hut.

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A decision was made to head straight up the trail not far from the falls behind our hut on Sunday morning. This trail led us to the The Acropolis (1439m). Once upon the main ridge line the snow was instantly deep enough to require the use of our snow shoes. Even then, as we climbed towards the main massif the snow deepened and the trail markers were lost to snow depth. Cloud was low and visibility down to just a few hundred metres. It was fabulous fun, with steep slopes and what felt like some precarious moments but with no clear trail, our GPS’s were trying to send us up all sorts of dangerous looking chutes!  We were soon out of time and needing to head back to our awaiting coal fired hut…I was sure I could smell the smoke from that fire on more than one occasion as we neared the hut…but we remained alone for many days.

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Day three saw us back up the valley near the intersection of the Acropolis Track and the Cepheus River, the trail we were on the day previous . We were convinced that somewhere near this location was another track, a little used track heading north along the Pine Valley floor to the site of the Geryon Climbers Camp. A ribbon was sighted on a tree not far off the main track…then another…and another and another! A couple of hours later we arrived at the ‘pointy end’ of Pine Valley (formerly known as Moss Valley). Here under the shadow of the giant rock face of Geryon and the impressive Acropolis we felt like we had found some fabled hidden city. Truth be told it was just a clearing and a small hand carved sign telling us we had made it. There were tracks heading out both sides of the camp no doubt up to climbing spots. The journey up the valley showed us two or three more waterfalls that were unmarked on our maps. They were much more impressive than the marked Cepheus falls behind our hut. We ‘trail ran’ back to the trail intersection following the ribbons as best we could…considering the blurring speed we were running at🙂 We actually made such good time on the return journey we completely over shot the trail intersection without recognising it! Five minutes of discussion and we recognised where we were and headed back along the trail to our Pine Valley Hut to, again, practice our ever growing skills at lighting coal fires with damp wood.

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Tuesday, Day Four. We left a little bit of weight in food and un-wanted gear behind but loaded everything else into our packs and headed up the opposite side of the valley wall to The Labyrinth, The Parthenon, Pool of Memories and a host of other delights. A very steep scramble up a fast flowing stream into a saddle adjacent to the long Parthenon (1229m). We donned the snow shoes and traversed along the west side of this mountain until we came to a drop into a valley filled with small mountain lakes. The weather, again was clear and very pleasant to walk in, with views across the Pine Valley to Acropolis and Geryon. After some ‘puddle hopping’ we came to where the trail around our first big lake (Cyane) disappeared under water. It appeared that the ice from the lake’s surface was stopping a full flow out and down the mountain, thus it was flooding the lakeside trail. We were conscious not to smash through more bushes higher up, this high lakes area is a sensitive area in terms of its bio-diversity. (We were even holding in our ‘number twos’ to avoid having to carry them out!!) From our dead end we looked back over the lake and noted a couple of good flat potential campsites, we cut back around and flattened out some snow and had one of the nicest campsites I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping at!

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After some heavy rain, strong wind and a little snow we awoke to a thick blanket of morning cloud, yet a still day and not too cold. The rain had washed a bit of the snow cover away revealing rocks and bushes we hadn’t know existed the day before. The temperature was mild at around 2 – 4 degrees. We decided to leave the tent set and the solar panel plugged into the battery in the hope that the forecast for sunny weather would prove right. The sun did poke through occasionally, enough to put some charge in, but not enough to get through the walls of the 4 season tent (Macpac). While that was all happening back at Lake Cyane we continued on around Lakes Ophion, Elysia and finally on to the Pool of Memories, our ultimate destination. In fact we mistook the pool for another lake as I had marked the Pool of Memories incorrectly on my GPS (Suunto Traverse). We in fact began climbing the nearby ridge toward the higher Lake Selene before we realised our mistake and happily returned to our snack spot at Pool of Memories for a break before moving back to drop our tent and move on back down to the Pine Valley. The patches of blue sky did not fail to impress us as the parting clouds revealed to us magical views of Acropolis and Geryon across the valley. On the return journey Clint tested the thickness of one of the frozen lakes…not wise, but extremely hilarious as he dived for the safety of solid land under his cracking base! I always find down hill journey’s much tougher than uphill ones so by the time we returned to Pine Valley Hut I was jelly legged and ready for a rest…was that the smell of a coal fire we could smell as we neared the hut? No such luck, we were still alone in the valley, at least for another couple of hours. That evening we were joined by a great young couple of Brisbanites currently residing in Newtown, Sydney. Andi instantly became my best friend as we discovered common ground as ‘gear junkies’. Clint and Andi’s partner Aaron sat in stunned silence as we chatted about the qualities of every known brand of outdoor gear known to man.

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Day six required no rush, so after waking to farewell Andi and Aaron (with our snow shoes) as they headed up to Acropolis, we slept another hour, packed up and headed back to Narcissus Hut to await their later arrival. A pleasant three hour wander and a nice afternoon sitting at the edge of Lake St Claire saw us, again, greeting our new mates as they returned from a bigger day than we had experienced. We shared stories of our days, and more gear talk for Andi and I, then of course some sunset viewing from the helipad and Platypus spotting at the jetty…the last pursuit failed, but the first produced success – a stunning afternoon with the last of the sun’s rays kissing all the snow capped mountains around us – Mt Olympus (1472m) being the biggest/closest.

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Friday. We were joined by an organised trekking group on the ferry, which was a big money saver. Winter sees the ferry used less and the lakeside walk covered in fallen trees, so with six or less people on board the boat you share a $240 fee. With thirteen of us we each paid the standard $40 crossing fee. The waves on Lake St Claire that day were, according to the ferry man, “the biggest I’ve ever seen, the wind is gail force, up around 80-90 knots!!” I don’t know about his accuracy, but it WAS wild out there! After 7 hours at the Derwent Bridge Hotel around a beautiful open fire and a 3 hour drive to Hobart,  we waved goodbye to Andi and Aaron, we were ready for a warm shower and comfortable bed in our very nice Montacute Bunkhouse in Battery Point. With heads on pillows it wasn’t long before we were dreaming of the morning markets at Salamanca Place, our flights home and our next adventure…

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More photos here.

Video here.

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PILGRIMAGE IN AUSTRALIA

ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE ABORIGINES AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
IN «BLATHERSKITE PARK»

Alice Spring (Australia), 29 November 1986

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to be here today in Alice Springs and to meet so many of you, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia. I want to tell you right away how much the Church esteems and loves you, and how much she wishes to assist you in your spiritual and material needs.

  1. At the beginning of time, as God’s Spirit moved over the waters, he began to communicate something of his goodness and beauty to all creation. When God then created man and woman, he gave them the good things of the earth for their use and benefit; and he put into their hearts abilities and powers, which were his gifts. And to all human beings throughout the ages God has given a desire for himself, a desire which different cultures have tried to express in their own ways.
  2. As the human family spread over the face of the earth, your people settled and lived in this big country that stood apart from all the others. Other people did not even know this land was here; they only knew that somewhere in the southern oceans of the world there was “The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit”.

But for thousands of years you have lived in this land and fashioned a culture that endures to this day. And during all this time, the Spirit of God has been with you. Your “Dreaming”, which influences your lives so strongly that, no matter what happens, you rema,in for ever people of your culture, is your only way of touching the mystery of God’s Spirit in you and in creation. You must keep your striving for God and hold on to it in your lives.

  1. The rock paintings and the discovered evidence of your ancient tools and implements indicate the presence of your age-old culture and prove your ancient occupancy of this land.

Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear. Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost. Do you perhaps remember those words that Paul VI spoke to the aboriginal people during his visit to them in 1970? On that occasion he said: “We know that you have a life style proper to your own ethnic genius or culture – a culture which the Church respects and which she does not in any way ask you to renounce… Society itself is enriched by the presence of different cultural and ethnic elements. For us you and the values you represent are precious. We deeply respect your dignity and reiterate our deep affection for you”.

  1. For thousands of years this culture of yours was free to grow without interference by people from other places. You lived your lives in spiritual closeness to the land, with its animals, birds, fishes, waterholes, rivers, hills and mountains. Through your closeness to the land you touched the sacredness of man’s relationship with God, for the land was the proof of a power in life greater than yourselves.

You did not spoil the land, use it up, exhaust it. and then walk away from it. You realized that your land was related to the source of life.

The silence of the Bush taught you a quietness of soul that put you in touch with another world, the world of God’s Spirit. Your careful attention to the details of kinship spoke of your reverence for birth, life and human generation. You knew that children need to be loved, to be full of joy. They need a time to grow in laughter and to play, secure in the knowledge that they belong to their people.

You had a great respect for the need which people have for law, as a guide to living fairly with each other. So you created a legal system – very strict it is true – but closely adapted to the country in which you lived your lives. It made your society orderly. It was one of the reasons why you survived in this land.

You marked the growth of your young men and women with ceremonies of discipline that taught them responsibility as they came to maturity.

These achievements are indications of human strivings. And in these strivings you showed a dignity open to the message of God’s revealed wisdom to all men and women, which is the great truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  1. Some of the stories from your Dreamtime legends speak powerfully of the great mysteries of human life, its frailty, its need for help, its closeness to spiritual powers and the value of the human person. They are not unlike some of the great inspired lessons from the people among whom Jesus himself was born. It: is wonderful to see how people, as they accept the Gospei of Jesus, find points of agreement between their own traditions and those of Jesus and his people.
  2. The culture which this long and careful growth produced was not prepared for the sudden meeting with another people, with different customs and traditions, who came to your country nearly 200 years ago. They were different from Aboriginal people. Their traditions, the organization of their lives, and their attitudes to the land were quite strange to you. Their law too was quite different. These people had knowledge, money and power; and they brought with them some patterns of behaviour from which the Aboriginal people were unable to protect themselves.
  3. The effects of some of those forces are still active among you today. Many of you have been dispossessed of your traditional lands, and separated from your tribal ways, though some of you still have your traditional culture. Some of you are establishing Aboriginal communities in the towns and cities. For others there is still no real place for camp-fires and kinship observances except on the fringes of country towns. There, work is hard to find, and education in a different cultural background is difficult. The discrimination caused by racism is a daily experience.

You have learned how to survive, whether on your own lands, or scattered among the towns and cities. Though your difficulties are not yet over, you must learn to draw on the endurance which your ancient ceremonies have taught you. Endurance brings with it patience; patience helps you to find the way ahead, and gives you courage for your journey.

  1. Take heart from the fact that many of your languages are still spoken and that you still possess your ancient culture. You have kept your sense of brotherhood. If you stay closely united, you are like a tree standing in the middle of a bush-fire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn. The time for this rebirth is now!
  2. We know that during the last two hundred years certain people tried to understand you, to learn about you, to respect your ways and to honour you as persons. These men and women, as you soon realized, were different from others of their race. They loved and cared for the indigenous people. They began to share with you their stories of God, helped you cope with sickness, tried to protect you from ill-treatment. They were honest with you, and showed you by their lives how they tried to avoid the bad things in their own culture. These people were not always successful, and there were times when they did not fully understand you. But they showed you good will and friendship. They came from many different walks of life. Some were teachers and doctors and other professional people; some were simple folk. History will remember the good example of their charity and fraternal solidarity.

Among those who have loved and cared for the indigenous people, we especially recall with profound gratitude all the missionaries of the Christian faith. With immense generosity they gave their lives in service to you and to your forebears. They helped to educate the Aboriginal people and offered health and social services. Whatever their human frailty, and whatever mistakes they may have made, nothing can ever minimize the depht of their charity. Nothing can ever cancel out their greatest contribution, which was to proclaim to you Jesus Christ and to establish his Church in your midst.

  1. From the earliest times men like Archbishop Polding of Sydney opposed the legal fiction adopted by European settlers that this land was terra nullius – nobody’s country. He strongly pleaded for the rights of the Aboriginal inhabitants to keep the traditional lands on which their whole society depended. The Church still supports you today.

Let it not be said that the fair and equitable recognition of Aboriginal rights to land is discrimination. To call for the acknowledgment of the land rights of people who have never surrendered those rights is not discrimination. Certainly, what has been done cannot be undone. But what can now be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow.

Christian people of good will are saddened to realize – many of them only recently – for how long a time Aboriginal people were transported from their homelands into small areas or reserves where families were broken up, tribes split apart, children orphaned and people forced to live like exiles in a foreign country.

The reserves still exist today, and require a just and proper settlement that still lies unachieved. The urban problems resulting from the transportation and separation of people still have to be addressed, so that these people may make a new start in life with each other once again.

  1. The establishment of a new society for Aboriginal people cannot go forward without just and mutually recognized agreements with regard to these human problems, even though their causes lie in the past. The greatest value to be achieved by such agreements, which must be implemented without causing new injustices, is respect for the dignity and growth of the human person. And you, the Aboriginal people of this country and its cities, must show that you are actively working for your own dignity of life. On your part, you must show that you too can walk tall and command the respect which every human being expects to receive from the rest of the human family.
  2. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks all languages. It esteems and embraces all cultures. It supports them in everything human and, when necessary, it purifies them. Always and everywhere the Gospel uplifts and enriches cultures with the revealed message of a loving and merciful God.

That Gospel now invites you to become, through and through, Aboriginal Christians. It meets your deepest desires. You do not have to be people divided into two parts, as though an Aboriginal had to borrow the faith and life of Christianity, like a hat or a pair of shoes, from someone else who owns them. Jesus calls you to accept his words and his values into your own culture. To develop in this way will make you more than ever truly Aboriginal.

The old ways can draw new life and strength from the Gospel. The message of Jesus Christ can lift up your lives to new heights, reinforce all your positive values and add many others, which only the Gospel in its originality proposes. Take this Gospel into your own language and way of speaking; let its spirit penetrate your communities and determine your behaviour towards each other, let it bring new strength to your stories and your ceremonies. Let the Gospel come into your hearts and renew your personal lives. The Church invites you to express the living word of Jesus in ways that speak to your Aboriginal minds and hearts. All over the world people worship God and read his word in their own language, and colour the great signs and symbols of religion with touches of their own traditions. Why should you be different from them in this regard, why should you not be allowed the happiness of being with God and each other in Aboriginal fashion?

  1. As you listen to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, seek out the best things of your traditional ways. If you do, you will come to realize more and more your great human and Christian dignity. Let your minds and hearts be strengthened to begin a new life now. Past hurts cannot be healed by violence, nor are present injustices removed by resentment. Your Christian faith calls you to become the best kind of Aboriginal people you can be. This is possible only if reconciliation and forgiveness are part of your lives. Only then will you find happiness. Only then will you make your best contribution to all your brothers and sisters in this great nation. You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.

In the new world that is emerging for you, you are being called to live fully human and Christian lives, not to die of shame and sorrow. But you know that to fulfil your role you need a new heart. You will already feel courage rise up inside you when you listen to God speaking to you in these words of the Prophets:

“Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine. Do not be afraid, for I am with you”.

And again:

“I am going to… gather you together… and bring you home to your own land… I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… You shall be my people and I will be your God”.

  1. With you I rejoice in the hope of God’s gift of salvation, which has its beginnings here and now, and which also depends on how we behave towards each other, on what we put up with, on what we do, on how we honour God and love all people.

Dear Aboriginal people: the hour has come for you to take on new courage and new hope. You are called to remember the past, to be faithful to your worthy traditions, and to adapt your living culture whenever this is required by your own needs and those of your fellowman. Above all you are called to open your hearts ever more to the consoling, purifying and uplifting message of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died so that we might all have life, and have it to the full.

© Copyright 1986 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana