Residents from western Sydney gathered last month to celebrate the contribution that migrants and refugees make to the wider community, and to offer prayers for their wellbeing and support.
The Diocese of Parramatta hosted the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish at Seven Hills on Saturday 16 September. The Diocese of Parramatta was joined by other community organisations including Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), Catholic Care Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, St Vincent De Paul Society, House of Welcome, Uniting Church, NDIS and the Community Migrant Resource Centre.
With more than 40% of its population hailing from overseas, western Sydney is one of the most diverse regions in the country and the WDMR celebration had representatives From the Chinese community, South Sudanese communities, Indian communities and Persian communities. Among the 100 people present were the Bishop of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, the Mayor of Blacktown Tony Bleasdale OAM and the state MP for Prospect Hugh McDermott, all of whom enjoyed the cultural dances and diverse cuisines, but also listened to stories of perseverance and courage from several speakers.
One of the speakers, Mayurakethan, 19, came to Australia by boat with his mother and brother in 2012. Mayurakethan shared the struggles of coming to Australia, including the challenges of living in the Naru processing camp. Despite the challenges, he emphasised the importance of connectivity and community. “It allows us to connect with loved ones, build connections, and care for one another as a community,” he said.
“I am proud people can share diverse experiences and understand the difference it makes to others. Therefore, sharing is not only about your skills and talents, but caring for those in need in our society.”
Pope Francis chose the theme of this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees as “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay”.
Bishop Vincent, himself a refugee, told the gathering that he hoped to see “the same level of bipartisan support for refugees now as there was for me and my fellow boat people in the ‘70s and ‘80s”.
“Australia is a wealthy, resourceful, fair dinkum nation capable of rising to new challenges, as it has done throughout history, the kind of Australia that refugees like myself and others are living testaments to. It’s time for us to agree and enshrine the best traditions with policies that reflect our solidarity, human decency, and care for the down and out.”
Mayor Tony Bleasdale of Blacktown echoed this sentiment: “In Blacktown, we welcome anyone and everyone into our city, and in particular, refugees have a double welcome in Blacktown City.”
To See all the images from the day click here.