Bishop Vincent’s address to World Refugee Day prayer service: “As you did to the least of these, you did unto me” 

By Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, 25 June 2024
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta and Chair of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service

Address to the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce Ecumenical Prayer Service on World Refugee Day

“As you did to the least of these, you did unto me” 

20 June 2024


Dear friends,

We gather tonight as people of faith and commitment to shape the future of this country in accordance with the divine mandate. Inspired by the Gospel, we join our fellow citizens in working towards a just and equitable society, one that is a true reflection of the reign of God, characterised by respect for its First Nations peoples and fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

It’s in our DNA as Christians to reach out to fellow human beings in need. It’s in our DNA to treat the stranger with dignity and hospitality. The Bible and particularly the example of Jesus is neither silent nor unclear on how we are to welcome the marginalised and the stranger. It’s the texture of Christianity.

“Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did it unto me”. These words taken from Matthew’s Gospel are powerful demonstration of God’s love for his suffering people. He identifies himself with them as he identified with his oppressed people in Egypt. In the parable, the God-Ruler does not judge his subjects on any other criteria than their ability to recognise and serve him in the most rejected of their fellow human beings. The fact that the God-Ruler makes himself one with the unwelcomed subverts our idea of who and what constitutes the ideal, the normative and the worthy. The more deserving and qualified of God’s loving embrace turn out to be the ones we often neglect and reject. In Jesus, who surrounds himself with the outcast, we see a God of solidarity and vulnerability. In Jesus, we meet a God who disturbs our comfort and pushes us out to the periphery to be with the least of his brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis in his message marking Migrant and Refugee Sunday makes a passionate appeal for solidarity with those who are forced to flee like Jesus. Against the tide of anti-refugee sentiments across the world, the Holy Father says that “it is a time to recognise Jesus in those faces, we will be the ones to thank him for having been able to meet, love and serve him in them.”

Asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees are not an imposition, or problem to be solved; they are sisters and brothers to be welcomed, protected, included, and promoted. Our encounter with them enriches our lives and provides us with an opportunity to work together for a better world. Their resilience, creativity and drive make Australia a better place.

We are challenged to be an alternative community of mercy, inclusion and neighbourliness. Instead of the label of “queue jumpers”, we can help the world see them as our fellow travellers who like us are in search of justice, freedom, dignity and opportunity.

Each of us can become critical yeast for a critical time by virtue of our commitment, dedication and shared leadership. In this way, we can create a movement and a coalition of concerned citizens that challenges the inertia and indifference that is often the default position of our society.

As Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that the arc of justice is long but it tends inescapably to justice. We must not give in to the myth of the futility of our resistance. The Biloela family is a proof that decency can win over cruelty. The example of the early Christian community spurs us on. For they understood the significance of being a model society in how they lived, how they related, how they welcomed outsiders and shared resources with the disadvantaged. It was a community that supported and cared for the most vulnerable. They showed to the world what it was like to live with the Gospel ethos of neighbourly concern, compassion and communion.

As Christians, we honour this founding memory by our radical outreach and witness. We are inspired to be a kinder, more inclusive, more caring alternative society under God’s rule. The kingdom vision of Jesus guides us as we endeavour to be a community that serves as an antidote to the politics of fear and the culture of self-protection and exclusion in our society.

At a time when the global structures are faltering, the world needs more than ever the witness of the Christian communities, united in our effort to honour the dignity and worth of every person, to serve the common good and live as one with God’s creation. With the men and women of goodwill, let us build a better Australia and a better world. May our endeavour to replace the culture of fear and indifference with that of encounter and acceptance be brought to fulfillment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.


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