Aqualand – A Place of Peace & Goodwill
In October 2010 I first visited Curtin Detention Centre on the Curtin Air Base in Derby WA. The Centre was still being established. There were about 500 detainees, all Afghan men. One thing that stood out for me in this harsh landscape of red earth was the lack of vegetation and, in the searing heat, the hospitality shown to me by the detainees. I was a welcome guest.
The other amazing thing which I thought spoke of God’s presence was at the very edge of the Centre a new project was being established. The men were developing an aquaculture project with hydroponic gardens drawing the nitrogen rich water from the aqua tanks. They were also setting up a little nursery to grow fruit trees and shade trees to be planted around the barren Centre.
The men at their own initiative had just sculptured in the hard red earth a pond the shape of Afghanistan and a second pond in the shape of Australia. The woodwork shop had made a bridge to enable you to cross over from one to the other. They were shaped so when filled with water it would flow out of the Australian pond or nation and into the Afghanistan pond or nation. The rich symbolism left me speechless – it required no words or interpreters, the heart connected.
I have just been back to Curtin for the first time since that original visit. This time the religious liaison person was not an Australian female Christian but a male Pakistani Muslim, a gentle man who was praying his new wife would be allowed to come from Pakistan to Australia soon. After showing me around the greatly expanded Centre which has roughly 1500 men, the biggest majority being Sri Lankan I was taken to Aqualand. It was amazing – the project begun by the Hazarra men had flourished, the tanks were in full operation supporting fish and the hydroponics vegies. The red earth surrounds of the yard was now lush with grass, fruit trees and other shrubs. The two shade houses had no young plants but that was the project to pot up numbers of fruit trees to be planted around the Centre. In fact that was the other noticeable thing – trees grew all around this Centre which otherwise was a hostile red earth environment.
Then I asked about the ponds. In the middle of the garden were the two ponds Australia with barramundi and Afghanistan with koy. A young barra had come across into the Afghan pond from the Aussie pond. The bridge was now concrete and lush vegetation surrounded the ponds. Again this required no speech. Now other men from other nations cared for this garden. I noticed 3 BBQ’s; on Fridays staff and clients mix together as they wish, sharing food in this garden of peace. On any day you will find staff and clients mixing here, drawing on the peace of this place.
I thought about the angel and heavenly host declaring to the shepherds in Luke 2 “peace on earth and goodwill to all” Hadn’t these men, detained in such isolated and harsh conditions, for no more then seeking to escape the horror of their homeland, overcome? Had they not shown greater “goodwill” i.e. kindness, then our nation’s leaders? Did not the “favour” of God, who delights in creation and extends grace and mercy, rest upon them, & shine through them?
The peace that the angel declared was born in Christ has touched this place, touched many nations, brought sanctuary to a place of detention and brought the beauty of creation to this isolated and harsh place. Thanks be to God. We pray for our nation and our leaders to be touched by this goodwill and act with a spirit of generosity, hospitality and kindness towards those seeking asylum.
I pray this Christmas that in your place peace and goodwill will be shared among you, with stranger and friend alike. For this Christ came, this is good news of great joy! Shalom, Stuart