Address to the Ninth Bishop Joe Grech Memorial Colloquium – Part 2: We are all responsible

10 September 2019
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv at the Good Friday Night Walk Thank You Dinner. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Address at the Ninth Bishop Joe Grech Memorial Colloquium on Ethics and Migration

“Nurturing a Culture of Encounter and Hospitality”

Brisbane, 5 August 2019




I wish to show you a few images that expose the absurdity not so much of border walls as of the simplistic attitude of isolationism. We are all living in an interconnected world and what we do has an impact beyond our own environment.

Here is the image of children playing on the colourful seesaws that were inserted through the steel slats of a section of the border wall between Mexico and USA. It was a brilliant albeit short-lived display of the mutual relationship between the two countries.

Its designer said, “If you do something on one side, it will have an impact on the other side. And that’s what happens politically between United States and Mexico. What they do there impacts here; what they do here, it will impact there — it’s the same with the seesaw.”

I would say that the impact goes even beyond the two immediate neighbours. In fact, many would argue that global poverty, environmental degradation, and migration are linked inextricably to the culture and the supporting structures of our unfettered pursuit of wealth and power, which are strongly embedded in the dominant Western World.

Here are a couple of more confronting images. One shows the bodies of a Salvadoran father and his daughter who drowned while attempting to cross the river Rio Grande into the USA.

The other is about 50-year-old photo of a group of Vietnamese children fleeing the napalm bomb explosion. This one has a particular relevance to Australia because we were part of the coalition that determined and directed the conduct of the war in Vietnam.

These images remind us not simply of the victims of war, violence and conflict but the intricate circumstances, which gave rise to their tragedy and for which they were not the only ones responsible.

Pope Francis spoke powerfully of the situation as the cumulative result of multiple injustices to which we all at some level contribute, the solution to which, it follows, we all become at some level responsible. In so doing, he exposed the moral vacuity of isolationism, and simplistic reductionism, at the same time as enriching John Paul II’s concept of solidarity, bringing it to the level of obligation and thus tying it to universal human dignity.

Pope Francis is not afraid to call out systems that drive oppression.

Unless these systems are recognised, exposed, confronted, and dismantled, fundamental social change will not occur. In Bolivia, for example, he spoke of a common thread that caused the destructive realities of social exclusion and environmental destruction.

The change we need, therefore, goes beyond national interests and Francis pointed to the systemic/structural change in terms of the globalisation of hope: “We want change in our lives, in our neighbourhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change, which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalisation of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalisation of exclusion and indifference!”

Part 3 will be published tomorrow.

To read Part 1 of Bishop Vincent’s address, click here.


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