Diana Santleben OP writes a reflection: It’s a Dominican Thing! When I was at a high school retreat, many years ago, our Dominican retreat director told us that you should be able to recognise a Dominican by the way they climb a tree. I don’t know what impact that statement had on my fellow students. Maybe it was because I had fallen out of many trees that it stayed with me and half a life-time later I still wonder, “Is there a Dominican way to climb a tree? Is there a Dominican way to drive a car or to be a refugee advocate or to practice environmental stewardship?”
Maybe it takes the support or feed back from our community to help us realise, “Wow, what I’m doing feels so Dominican!” In many of our Congregations we are studying, discussing and praying about living the Charism today. In essence, though, I feel we are often reminding ourselves of what we already know – and recognise when we see it in real life.
In the past few years, to our shame, the general Australian perception of refugees and asylum seekers has been often about threats to our boarder security, the people smugglers ‘business model’, queue jumpers and a loss of control of immigration policy by one political party or another. There are calls to ‘turn back the boats’. We have built immigration detention centres in deserts or off-shore islands and then surrounded them with massive hi-tech fencing and guards. The damage to the mental health of already traumatized people has been massive and largely ignored by our complicit media and population.
The truth, however, is that half the Australian people are migrants or the children of migrants – many of whom were refugees. We are possibly the most multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country in the world; with people from over 150 countries, speaking over 200 languages, calling Australia home. We have wonderful anti-discrimination legislation and anti-racial vilification legislation. We have signed and ratified every UN human rights treaty. What is the ‘Dominican thing’ in the current situation?
We’ve recognised it when Beth and Rosemary visited the detainees at Villawood, when Carmel and Mary published ‘Deported to Danger’, when Margaret and Maureen volunteered at the anti-trauma counselling centre and when our Newcastle Sisters picketed against the shabby treatment of recently arrived refugees. Yes, that day we felt the presence and support of Dominic and Catherine.
‘The Dominican Thing’ for me is too rich for trite definitions, but it entails careful observation, assiduous study, much prayer and reflection, remembering and discussion and a preparedness to go the distance in the cause of ‘Truth’