Your faith has given you a wonderful capacity for honest self-appraisal. This would be a very different world if more of us were able to do the same. Besides the joy of reconnecting with Old Boys, with whom I had long assumed I would only converse with in the life hereafter, I have been able to read postings which provide such an evocative insight into our mutual spiritual and intellectual journeys.
Shortly before I emigrated from South Africa in the early seventies, I had a conversation with a Doctor Barker whose life work it had been to provide the best medical attention for homeland Africans in a mission hospital in Zululand. I had become disillusioned, angry and cynical about the society in which I had been raised, especially with the Methodist Church. As a member of this church, I felt that their opposition to Apartheid had been weak - even pathetic - and certainly not consistent with the notion of loving one's neighbour. Doctor Barker's advice was simply that if I were to leave South Africa, I should do so without bitterness in my heart. I was utterly humbled by his words and made aware of the arrogance and hubris that could so easily be concealed by an outward display of righteous indignation.
For years I have maintained that for all its shortcomings as a society, especially regarding the treatment of its indigenous people, at least Australia did not have a system of institutionalised racism and oppression. However, increasingly I have come to the view that with respect to the rejection of asylum seekers, there is a sameness between the values and policies of recent Australian governments, and some of the worst abuses during the Apartheid years. Moreover, because refugees are a minority group, the situation for them is without hope, particularly those in detention centres. There is also a collective amnesia with respect to those who have drowned in their desperate attempts to get to Australia in unseaworthy vessels. And, if they do arrive on these shores they are treated as lepers or intruders. Not surprisingly, the incidence of self-harm in off-shore detention is a major embarrassment for those in the government - at least those who still have some empathy and are not in denial, or blinded by their jingoism. One of our most arrogant and insensitive politicians actually claimed that statistically Australia was the most generous country in the world. Presumably that also meant that we are also the most misunderstood, given the condemnation that has been directed at us by the United Nations.
Given these sentiments, I'm sure you'll understand how reassuring it was to find out through this website, which is so obviously a significant and time-consuming project for you, that an Old Boy from our cohort, Brian Brown, had not only at one time been moderator of the Uniting Church in New South Wales, but also a social justice activist. Evidence of the latter was that last year, he and other like-minded Christians were arrested, and released without charge for holding a prayer vigil for refugees in the offices of one of the politicians responsible for these policies and practices.
So thank you once again for your commitment to this cause. Incidentally, through this site and the efforts of Rob Wilson, I have been able to reconnect with Punch Chapman, and to find that I was entirely vindicated in my admiration and regard for him as a school boy. I have also been able to have an ongoing conversation with Francois Everson, and able to show my son and daughter and others, that I had in no way exaggerated the stories I had told them about this splendid friend and fellow-adventurer!