More than two and half thousand years ago, an Old Testament prophet wrote
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.
A child was assaulted on an Australian street in this last fortnight. As a result of the brutal beating he received, by an older man with an iron bar we are told, this child died.
The language we might use for this unjustified act of appalling violence, if we were so inclined, is that a child was lynched on the streets of Perth.
Where is the outcry? Where are the nation’s leaders – social, political and religious – crying out for justice? Are we so accustomed to violence like this that it slides from our screens and our memories as we swipe to a less confronting story?
Suddenly we remember the discomfort we feel when that Melbourne footy club remains accused of deep-rooted racism. We turn the channel to avoid listening (certainly talking) about offering a voice to our First People in a referendum.
Some will say that these are not associated, that one has no relevance to the other. Ask the ones whose voice is silenced. Ask the ones who received the violence of language, of social exclusion, of stereotype, or worse.
And a child lies dead; another family is paralysed in grief and despair.
Some will claim this child had caused harm to property. So, let me ask you, what crime can a child commit that justifies him being beaten with an iron bar? What community, what society, can use slippery language, or bastardised ethics, to justify the violent death of a child?
We grieve today, but only as a dim echo of this family’s grief. We pray, and act in support, because no-one can survive this trauma alone.
We speak because someone needs to do so. More than one – person, church, community – needs to cry out for justice, because a child lies dead at a man’s hand.
This child’s death cannot fade from our sight because we are afraid to discover what hides in the shadows of our lives and communities.
My faith in Jesus Christ talks of mercy, which is always hand in hand with justice. Our church speaks of the need to forgive each other and to be reconciled, but they come with the cost of humility and seeking forgiveness from the person we have harmed.
This is more urgent than any other story in our lives.
It is not enough to be sad, to offer thoughts and prayers.
What shall we ask, what shall we do, to find justice? What shall we require of our leaders?
What shall we require of ourselves?