The Australian Bishops launched their 2015/2016 Social Justice Statement on the 9th September at Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney, the same day the Australian Government announced their increased intake of 12,000 Syrians.
The launch also paralleled the moment people from across the world were stopped by the media image of deceased Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi.
The Diocesan Social Justice Office, staff and students from Bede Polding College, Windsor, parishioners from Mary Queen of the Family, Blacktown, Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair, and St Bernadette’s, Lalor Park, as well as the Parramatta St Vincent De Paul Social Justice Network, gathered with 200 others at the launch.
Aunty Elsie Heiss, Indigenous Elder and past president of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, began the launch with an acknowledgement of country and a reflection that reminded us that we have much to learn from our Indigenous brothers and sisters in terms of a broad concept of family and community.
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, a former boat person and now Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, launched the statement that was authenticated by the powerful sharing of his own personal story of seeking asylum.
“For me the desperate plight of refugees is particularly poignant because I came to Australia as a boat person, fleeing from Vietnam…I saw how tyranny and cruelty can leave people with no choice but to seek refuge elsewhere in any way possible. With the increasing global movement of peoples and our nation’s fearful response, it is timely for us to reflect on this important issue,” he said.
This is an extremely important social justice statement for the Diocese as Western Sydney is home to twenty of the most multicultural suburbs in Australia. It is reflected in our families, schools and parishes and in the way that we continue to value the ongoing contribution and dynamic gifts that each of our diverse communities bring to the Diocese. This year’s Social Justice Statement challenges us to continue finding real and practical ways to go about this.
Sr Louise McKeogh FMA is the Social Justice Coordinator for the Diocese of Parramatta.