In an historic first, over 500 people gathered, as part of Migrant and Refugee Sunday, to acknowledge the enormous harm done by Australia to refugees, and to call for a change of policy and a change of heart
Faith groups across Australia reached the culmination of 150 days of action and advocacy for refugees seeking protection in this land. A national ritual of Lamentation and Recommitment followed an earlier webinar calling for “Hope out of Horror”.
Hundreds of people joined in these gatherings to reflect on the radical brokenness in our political system, and to urge the government to abandon its harsh and reprehensible treatment of refugees. Our own commitment lay at the heart of the ritual: “to put aside our timidity, our fears and other barriers, to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are seeking protection.”
People of faith have been increasingly disturbed by what is happening to refugees across the globe, and progressively, more and more, in this country. With many Australians, we have watched with horror and alarm as the plight of people trapped in Afghanistan has unfolded on our TV screens and our media. The impact of Government inaction, and its inability to respond with justice and compassion, has deeply troubled, and indeed, appalled us. It is abundantly clear that our slow response to the situation in Afghanistan, as well as our treatment of Afghani refugees in our own country in the past eight years, have contributed in no small way to the immense suffering being experienced at this time across both countries.
A recording of the national ritual will be sent to every member of Parliament.
“We know that refugees in this country continue to endure distress and anxiety because of Government policies,” said Fr Peter Smith, from the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Justice and Peace Office. “Refugees have been deprived, not only of income support and financial and other safety nets, but also of the possibility of reunion with their families and any certainty for their futures.”
We have three specific demands of government:
- To provide income support and a financial safety net for people seeking asylum in Australia.
- To end temporary protection visas and create a clear pathway to permanent residency.
- To ensure access to family reunion for refugees and people seeking asylum in this country.
People of faith have been acutely conscious of Afghani refugees and of the way that their suffering and anguish embody in a very real way, the violence already being experienced by more than 21,000 refugees on bridging visas in this country. The inhumane treatment of the Biloela family in the last week provides clear evidence of the radical brokenness in our political system, and of a government using human beings as political pawns, with little, if any, disquiet, for the ongoing harm being inflicted on innocent people.
“Australia’s current policies and treatment of refugees are of critical concern, not only for people who have fled to this country for protection, but also for the very character of who we are as a nation,” stressed Fr Smith. “We urge all politicians to use their powers to bring about greater justice and a clear change of policy.”
With thanks to Catholics for Refugees.