The trial of the Pine Gap 4 was due to begin yesterday, so we did a vigil in Bourke Street Mall to pray for them and express our solidarity as they face a possible seven year jail term. We also thought it would be good to do it in public to raise some awareness of Pine Gap and the trial itself. It turned out to be more of a conversion experience for us than for any of the passersby.
Mostly though it was useful for us to do this: reading the names out had a particularly significant effect on us all. We read the names, ages, occupations, date they were killed, how they were killed, and where, of both coalition and Iraqi casualties. We wanted to do both to bring a sense of balance and recognise that there are victims on both sides of a war. The emotions it evoked were intense. I went through despair, sadness, frustration, anger, peacefulness. Often it depended on which list I was reading – it was harder to feel sympathy for the coalition casualties, who you knew were there to do a job, and who were there intentionally. Whereas for the Iraqi list, made up mostly of civilians, it was much more poignant; especially when you’re acknowledging the deaths of children, unborn babies in their pregnant mothers, farmers, mechanics – not soldiers. Even still, most of the coalition dead were under 24; many as young as 18 and 19. For us it was really as much about repentance as anything – not flagellation, but recognition and genuine regret and solidarity. Realising how complicit we all are in this system of violence and destruction – confessing and repenting of it.
So this turned out to be much more for our good than for anyone else’s. And the sense I was left with is that there’s such a long way to go. We barely scratched the surface – maybe read 2 or 3 hundred names – of somewhere in the ballpark of 650,000 casualties. The pain of this and the legacy of destruction cannot even begin to be touched. But we’ve begun.
Some Christop photos here.