Game on for Christian Protest

Published on
The Age /Australia

Game on for Christian Protest

Barney Zwartz

Bonhoeffer Four: Margaret Pestorius and Jarrod McKenna (back), with Simon Moyle and Jessica Morrison. Photo: Julian Masters

MELBOURNE, Australia - Baptist minister Simon Moyle and friends have gone to Queensland to play hide and seek. It is a long way to go for a simple game, but this one is serious, and is almost certain to end with Mr Moyle in court - again.

The quartet of Christians plan to hide in the 30,000 square kilometres of the Shoalwater Bay military training area near Rockhampton to disrupt joint exercises by the Australian and US armies, navies and air forces, involving about 24,000 troops.

The exercises, code named Talisman Sabre, feature simulated city fighting in the Middle East.

In the early hours of this morning, the group, calling themselves the Bonhoeffer Four, stole onto the base, knowing that the exercise cannot go ahead while they are loose. They are aligned with a larger Christian group, the Martin Luther King Junior House Church, which is loosely connected with the wider Peace Convergence protest.

The group's namesake, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a great German theologian who was hanged in 1945 for supporting a plot to assassinate Hitler. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd identified Bonhoeffer as his inspiration in a major essay in The Monthly in 2006.

"Our faith is calling us to this," Mr Moyle said. "We have committed our lives to taking seriously Jesus' call not just to be peace lovers but peace makers, and to love our enemies."

He said he didn't know how many groups would try to hide. They had to signal that they were there, with balloons and beacons, which made it harder, but their hiding spot is the size of Belgium.

If caught, they will face court. Disrupting the 2007 exercises cost Mr Moyle a six-month good behaviour bond.

"The military are doing invasion training. They have built a model city inside the base with a mosque in the middle, which the Australians are defending against the Americans," he said.

The Bonhoeffer Four comprises Mr Moyle, Margaret Pestorius, Jessica Morrison, and Jarrod McKenna.

Mr Moyle's Brunswick church, Inspiral, will hold a vigil tonight in Federation Square.

Yesterday the ABC reported that a Sydney chaplain, Frank Vavasour, was briefly detained and later released without charge, after trying to climb the fence of the Rockhampton military barracks.

Mr Vavasour is a member of the Catholic group Pax Christi.


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