To the family and friends of St Edmund’s College,
The events of last weekend in Christchurch have proved to be quite challenging for all of us. Even though we do not live in New Zealand and most of us not Muslim, events like this touch all of us. It touches all of us because most of us realise that we are each other’s neighbour regardless of where we live, our country of birth and the religion we follow.
For 12 years of my career I worked for the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in two different schools in Sydney. The “Good Sams” have Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan as the foundation of their charism. It is a parable about neighbour, as Jesus tells the story in response to the question, “Who is my neighbour” after Jesus has preached about loving your neighbour. In the parable Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man who is passing on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and is attacked by robbers and is left on the side of the road. Two people walk by – a Jewish priest and a Levite (also a Jewish religious authority). Because of rules and rituals to do with cleanliness and the Sabbath, these two religious figures walk past the victim. The next person to walk past is a man from Samaria, a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews at this point in their history had a very hostile relationship with one another, and it would be just almost unthinkable that the Samaritan would reach out to a Jew. Yet it is in fact the Samaritan who reaches out – he is the one who removes the barriers, who sees the one who is in need; someone he must respond to, not asking questions about his worthiness, questions about his race, questions about his religion. Here is a fellow human being in need and the Samaritan responds with compassion; reaching out in love at that moment.
Our neighbours are not only those who live in our street or suburb. Our neighbours are our fellow human beings – regardless of culture, religion, colour and origin. Unfortunately we live in a world where some people simply cannot or will not recognise their neighbours. They cannot empathise with other humans and their conditions, and they put themselves on such a superior level that other humans simply become objects of hatred and fodder for destruction. The overwhelming response to tragedies such as the events in Christchurch tell us that most people around us recognise who our neighbours are and we respond accordingly. Our boys participated in a brief prayer service on Monday morning to pray for the Christchurch victims and their families. In a powerful symbolic gesture, the boys linked arms to demonstrate their sense of solidarity with each other and with their neighbours around the world. The right sense of neighbour is cultivated at home and at school. As a school for boys, we must instil in our students a sense of right relationships. We cannot tolerate students teasing or mocking other students because of their weight or looks or sexuality or culture or academic ability or other individual differences. We must be a school that cultivates a good sense of neighbour and a good sense of right relationships. This includes relationships in the classroom, in the yard, on the oval, in sporting events, outside of school and in the way our boys relate to each other on social media. It includes the ways our boys not only relate to each other, but the way they relate to their teachers, their parents and family members and the general public. Having a strong sense of right relationships leads to a clear sense of who our neighbours are. The outpouring of grief, support, empathy, compassion and understanding over the last few days has demonstrated that we live in a world where in fact most of us have a good understanding of neighbour, but a world where unfortunately we are responding too often to people who do not have this understanding.
Below is the transcript of the very powerful address given by Archbishop Anthony Fisher (Archbishop of Sydney) on Sunday 17 March at the Interfaith Memorial Gathering at St Mary’s Cathedral (Sydney) following the massacre. This is a very moving reflection which touches on many of the important areas raised above. Please take the time to read and reflect on this carefully:
“Today we are all Muslims,” said one of our nation’s most respected journalists. Not that we all share the same faith. But here we are, in a Christian holy place on the Christian holy day, standing together in solidarity over events in two Muslim holy places on the Muslim day of prayer.
We stand together today in our grief over the deaths of at least 50 innocent brothers and sisters in Christchurch, over injury suffered by dozens more, and over damage done to our shared sense of security and peace.
We stand together today in our horror at the real evil we have witnessed, at the violence perpetrated and the hate that inspired it.
We stand together today in our disgust at the racism of this enemy of mankind and the blasphemy of this enemy of God, and at all who willingly desecrate places of peace, times of ritual, and the bodies of the young and old at prayer.
To our shame it seems the perpetrator of this evil was a young Australian. He boasted on social media of being “the strongest man, pound for pound, in town”. He devoted himself to “playing video games, snorting coke and hiring strippers”. He called himself “a goddamn monster of willpower”. A young man, more and more alienated, resentful, radicalized, brutal.
To all young people like him we say today: if it is real strength you want, you will find it in compassion and mercy, not hate and violence. If it is real devotion you seek, dedicate yourself to God and goodness and your fellow man and woman, rather than ego and ideology. If you want to be worthy of admiration, cultivate a generous inclusivity rather than divisive arrogance, be willing to serve rather than seeking to dominate.
We stand together today, in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, in their grief, horror and disgust, for if someone has killed, maimed and terrorized our neighbours they have killed, maimed and terrorized us.
But today is about more than fellow-feeling. Where there is grief, we will bring consolation; where there is horror, we will sow trust; where there is despair, we will offer hope.
In our reading from the Book of Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah (3:17-26) – a prophet shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims – Jeremiah advises that when we are glum, brooding, forlorn, we should recall that God is faithful and that by His grace we are capable of more. ‘My portion is the Lord,’ says my soul, ‘and so I will hope in Him.’
Lent is for Christians a season of fasting and prayer and looking forward to better. Today I commit myself and my community to fasting and praying with you and for you. Such acts say more than handshakes and rhetoric. For to stand in solidarity is to stand on something solid. That something solid is insistence on our common humanity; it is awareness of our common vulnerability as individuals but our strength when we stand together; it is commitment to common love of God and God’s law of peace; and it is fulfilment of our common morality as citizens in a free land. As-salaam ‘alaykum.” (Archbishop Anthony Fisher)
Last Friday the College competed at the Brumbies High School 7’s event at Southwell Park with a team in each of the divisions: Year 7/8, Year 9/10 and Year 11/12. All teams were undefeated and claimed the title of champions of the ACT. These teams will compete against the other regional winners from southern New South Wales in Term 4. My thanks to Mr Denzil Fox, Mr Neil Roberts, Mr Angus Balmaks and of course to our great students who participated in the event.
Congratulations to Angus Jones (Year 11, O’Brien House). On the weekend Angus won a Silver Medal in his weight and age division (Junior) at the NSW State Karate Championships for Kumite (sparring). Angus was named as a member of the NSW State Karate Squad that will compete at the Australian Karate Federation National Championships in Tasmania in early August 2019. We wish Angus well in this event.
The Good Samaritan Prayer
God of love, give us a deep love for you,
so that we can see the world as you see it,
feel the compassion you feel,
and be a people whose lives mediate your love to others.
So open our eyes that we might see what the Good Samaritan saw.
Grant us the insight to see the need in others,
the wisdom to know what to do, and the will to do it.
Open our eyes, that we might not cross the road from human need.
Give us a deep love for you,
that we might see your love at work in this world,
and that we might Go and do likewise.
Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever
Christus Lux Mea
Mr Joe Zavone (College Principal)