31 March 2012
When my new colleagues in the Caritas office heard that I was going to go to Napier before the first week in my new role was finished, some were puzzled particularly as I was going to watch a test cricket match.
However, I have been a supporter of Zimbabwean cricket for many years.
Zimbabwe had not played test cricket outside the country for many years and this was the only test that they would be playing in New Zealand so I felt that I had to be there.
The first day was in glorious sunshine, but on the second the rain set in.
As we waited for play to recommence, I sat and contemplated my homeland. I thought of the people who have gone missing and of friends who have been assaulted or detained without just cause.
I wondered how many children and families were still starving and how the relief and feeding efforts were going. I thought about the spread of disease because of the lack of clean water. And I decided that I needed to say something.
An Op Shop down the road from Mclean Park was selling pillow cases for 50c, so I bought one to make my banner. And on the third day of the test – Saturday January 28, I sat down and put my banner on the railings a few rows in front of me.
‘Free’ speech in Hawke’s Bay
A minute later the first ball was bowled. Seven minutes later I was being stood over by a senior security guard. He told me that my banner had ‘political undertones’.
He said that this was not allowed at a cricket match. He told me that he would have to take it down.
He then gave it to me, and told me that if it came out again I would be evicted from the ground. In addition, if I did anything similar, it could also lead to eviction.
As he walked away, his phone rang. He returned to me and said that he was going to have to confiscate my banner and that I would not be getting it back.
I gave it to him, but wondered why other people can put up banners at cricket matches proclaiming love or wanting to meet friends but I could not say:
‘10 years waiting for Test Cricket. How long for Human Rights?’
Soon after that the New Zealand team declared and sent the Zimbabwean team in to bat. I watched dismally as they were ignominiously bowled out twice in one day.
Speaking up for the poor
But that didn’t make me feel as sad as wondering how we will fulfil that demand of Catholic Social teaching to speak on behalf of those who have no voice.
I continue to wonder what this means in a globalised world where the power sits in the hands of international sporting bodies, governments with increased statutory and surveillance powers and large corporations who have sponsorship and advertising rights with brands to protect.
How do we speak out for the poor and ensure that we respect the dignity of the human person?