Without Walls – A Reflection on PAELS

Over the last few months, I have shared my experience of the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders (PAEL) Summit to many congregations in WA, and discussing faith, advocacy and politics in Australia and the Pacific. These bible studies, Q&As and sermons have been encouraging for me and the churches I’ve  visited, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share this encouragement here.

In addition to loving our God with all our heart, mind and soul, scripture tells us that humanity’s great command is to love our neighbour. We see this illustrated in the Good Samaritan, a powerful parable of sacrificial ,cross-cultural love.  While we often forget the meaning of “Samaritan”, Jesus’ audience of Judean elites saw them as the “other”, a group hated by all, even the disciples. Despite this, Jesus’ ideal embodiment of neighbourly love is someone who his   audience would not accept as neighbour. This challenges every Christian to accept neighbours from any culture, and show love without tribalism or prejudice.

To borrow a phrase from Dave Meldrum, my former pastor, the Church should reflect Jesus, without walls. Jesus without walls shows us that God’s love has no boundaries, and neither should ours.

Who is my neighbour, as a migrant Australian in 2023? My neighbours are those on my street. In the pews next to me. In the Kimberley, in Queensland, in New South Wales. In the Cook Islands, Nauru and Fiji. In places I may never see. They are people I’ve known for a lifetime, and people I have never met.

The image of Jesus Without Walls should inspire us twofold.

First, it tells us that love of neighbour doesn’t end at the edge of your street. I am glad to be part of the Micah and PAEL family as we listen, learn and walk together to pursue justice, using our voice to lift up Australia’s First Peoples, those in the Pacific and worldwide. We are called to dedicate our time and resources to pursuing justice and neighbourly love, just as the Samaritan did. Today, this will include fighting the evils of climate change, poverty, oppression and silence beyond our shores.

Our second application is this – we can build community from any people, at  any place and time. In Canberra, as we shared stories and spoke truth to power in the halls of Parliament House, the PAEL network forged friendships, understanding and community. For 100 young leaders across the Pacific region, a group that began as strangers separated by desert, ocean and culture were able to call each other brothers and sisters – Pasifika, First Australians and New Australians alike. The walls that might divide us in the nation’s political capital were smashed down – because of the love of Jesus. A community of committed Christians is such a blessing – and as I look to my home of WA and seek to find a loving pursuit of justice, the PAEL network is a continuing blessing to me.

Let this be a reminder as we navigate complex political waters in 2023. Many seek to divide with the corrosive politics of fear and anger – but the call to love will always be more powerful.

And remember the Samaritan.

“Go and do likewise.”

– Theo Doraisamy, 2022 PAELS Delegate