Don’t Crucify the Messenger! – that’s my simple plea today.
I know a lot of people have said they find my friend, Luke Cornish’s, image of Julian being crucified offensive, as it makes him out to be a Christ figure.
They miss the point. The Roman Empire crucified a lot of people apart from Jesus. They crucified thousands of people. Indeed, they crucified anyone who dared to question their ultimate authority, and long before the cross was ever adopted as a symbol of faith it was a symbol of Imperial Power.
After the failed revolt of the slaves, led by Spartacus, in 73 BC, the Roman Empire crucified 6,000 slaves and put their tortured bodies on public display over a two-hundred kilometer stretch of the Via Apia. That was the Empire’s way of reminding everybody, ‘We are all-powerful and you are nothing. We have the power of life and death – the power to imprison and kill! Who are we to question us?’
Empires change as the centuries go by, but the lust for power and the arrogance and the assumption of impunity remains the same. Who are you to question us? How dare you call us to account? What is your truth when we have power?
Today’s empire is doing its best to turn our brother, Julian Assange, himself into a symbol of their power. Like the crosses that lined the Via Apia, they hold him up for the world to see, as a warning to anyone who would question their authority. ‘Dare to call the empire to account and this will happen to you too!’
And yet, around 2,000 years ago, the cross was adopted as a symbol of faith by one small group of people who came to believe that imperial violence did not have the final word. Some people, they believed, just couldn’t be crucified. Some voices just could not be silenced. When the light of truth is truly shining, the darkness just cannot ever ultimately put it out!
Forgive me if I’m starting to sound a bit religious (it’s an occupational hazard) but this really is a battle of light and darkness. Julian is being crucified because he spoke the truth – because he exposed crimes – terrible crimes of violence and murder, and it’s the persons responsible for those crimes who should be being dragged before the courts to give an account of themselves.
Don’t crucify the messenger – that’s my plea. Don’t bother, because you cannot silence the message, and don’t do it, because we, the Australian people, want that this fellow son of our sunburnt country, Australia’s son, our brother, Julian Assange, to come home.
Address given in Martin Place, February 24, 2020