Lieutenant Ben Clapton, a Devonport (Tas.) corps officer, has become the second Salvation Army officer to be arrested for trespass with the ongoing Loves Makes A Way group, protesting against the cruelty and neglect experienced by asylum seekers, refugees and their children in offshore detention facilities administered by Australia.
The lieutenant follows in the footsteps of Captain Craig Farrell, who was arrested for a similar action in 2014.
With the approval of his territorial and divisional leaders Lieut Clapton joined five other Christian protestors, including members of the Anglican, Baptist and Uniting Church churches, in a protest at Senator David Bushby’s offices in Rosny Park, Tasmania, on 25 August.
Post-arrest, the Australia Southern Territory’s media director Dr Bruce Redman affirmed the lieutenant’s actions, stating that ‘although the current government has reduced the number of children in detention to a fraction of what it was, The Salvation Army is proud to support our people who put themselves on the line on behalf of these innocent young people.
‘It’s not about party politics,’ Dr Redman, added, ‘but about justice and compassion.’
Territorial mission resources secretary Major Graham Roberts praised the action and said it was good to see the young corps officer had followed both the approval processes and the dictates of his conscience.
‘The hurting and neglect of children can be described as a stain on the character and heart of Australia. There is no simple answer as to why we close our eyes and pretend it’s not happening.’
There have have been 30 claims of abuse and neglect against refugee children to date, and zero prosecutions.
‘I’ve felt strongly about this for a long time,’ Lieut Clapton said. ‘I served on Manus Island, and my protest is both because of that experience and because of prior life experiences. My family has been involved with refugees and asylum seekers for a long time, and my mother has been helping refugees with humanitarian programs since the 1990s.
‘On Manus, I spoke with wonderful people who have been through horrendous, difficult circumstances, yet still had hope and a light about them. That light was slowly being eroded. The safety of children is a value that we should put above everything; our country has to take this seriously, just as we do the abuse of Australian children.’
Lieut Clapton pays tribute to his wife, Lieut Liesl Clapton, who supported his decision and looked after their children, Annabelle Joy (aged three) and David John (aged one), as well as the corps, while he was in Hobart. When this young couple look at their own children, they know that Ben made the correct decision.
‘We need to stand in the gap; to be in the world but not of it,’ he said. ‘I firmly believe that in our actions and in God’s grace we can help change the conversation in our churches, in our parliament and in our nation.’
Images used with permission from Love Makes a Way Flickr account.