Who could have imagined when we began the journey of 150 Days of Action for refugees that we would be grieving for the beautiful country of Afghanistan. As we watched the Kabul airport fill with fear, bombs and those desperately seeking safety we knew we were watching the beginning of life on the road for thousands of people.
This is why it is so important that we stay with the prayers and thoughts and political action necessary to change hearts and minds in our country Australia. Right now the Australian community is deeply concerned about those we have left behind after twenty years in their country. The media is full of stories of those who need to find safety from the predation and politics of the Taliban and ISIS.
For some this will be the first time they have thought about those who come by sea, before they have come by sea. The world is watching the next movement of refugees begin and we must be there to welcome, to see and to act responsibly in the face of our own obligations when they reach these shores.
These 150 Days began because the Holy Father, Pope Francis, declared 2021 to be the year of St. Joseph, who was himself a refugee and along with Mother Mary the guardians of Jesus as a refugee child. Pope Francis specifically names St. Joseph as “the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.” Since then, Pope Francis has also added to St. Joseph’s titles that of “Patron of Refugees”.
The timing of such a declaration was critical because, after two decades, it is clear that Australia’s treatment of those who come to us seeking protection needs to change. For the past twenty years, refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia have experienced inhumane and cruel treatment. We need to re-imagine what it would be like to come to a place like Australia and find the way to safety barred – to find a toxic political atmosphere that describes our children, our mums and dads as “illegals” and “queue-jumpers” as those trying to manipulate the charity of Australia. Australia needs a new heart, a new way to live and show mercy.
Over the last 130 days we have used all our resources and talents at schools, parishes, within our own communities and organisations to call for three things. To provide income support and a financial safety net for all people seeking asylum in Australia; to end temporary protection visas and create a clear pathway to permanent residency, and to ensure access to family reunion for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia.
On 26 September we will all join together for our Call to Lamentation and Commitment on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. This is what we propose to do and we welcome you, your families and communities to be a part of it.
On Sunday 26 September at 7pm you join us all on Zoom. We hope to have up to 500 people partake in this ceremony. We will begin with a welcome to country. Then have a call to prayer sung to us. We will then ask that everyone turn out their lights and light a candle in the dark. We will hold our candles in the dark as we read out the names of all the people who have died in Australia’s detention camps over the last twenty years. At the end we will have a prayer of lamentation and conclude with a call to all our elected representatives to again asking for our three requests.
This Zoom ceremony will be recorded and the final video will be sent to every Senator and MP in the Federal Parliament. We are making a ceremony of lamentation that is also a political document.
Over the next few weeks we will send the zoom link and the invitation and really hope that you can join us for all those still held in the purgatory of Australia’s temporary visa system and all those who have been forced to flee their homeland, Afghanistan. Any queries please contact Julie Macken Julie.email@example.com or Jan Barnett at firstname.lastname@example.org
To attend our Call to Lamentation and Commitment on 26 September 2021 at 7pm, please register here: https://bit.ly/Calltolamentation
This article first appeared on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney’s Justice and Peace Office on 2 September 2021. Reproduced with permission and thanks.