04 July 2014
A Christian response to asylum seekers
With millions of displaced persons in our world seeking refuge in more settled countries, I have become more and more disillusioned with Australia’s response, which is to call asylum seekers “illegals” and to close its borders by shipping these men, women and children to detention centres offshore, which, by all accounts, are nothing better than concentration camps. Here mental illness, attempted suicide (sometimes successful) and one one occasion the death of one young man and the injury of others occurred at the hands of those whose duty it was to protect them.
The whole exercise is shrouded in secrecy but occasionally details of the inhumane treatment of these people fleeing torture, war or starvation leak out and there seems so little Australians appalled at the situation can do. Some bishops have spoken out but I doubt that much has percolated down to the people in the pews.
Imagine if from every pulpit there was a clear message about the injustices being done in our name and suggestions sought as to how to discover a more humane way of treating refugees and asylum seekers. For instance, what if every parish agreed to take a family or small group to house and care for them while their refugee status was being processed? It would surely be much cheaper in the long run than keeping these off-shore detention centres running and Australia’s much-vaunted sense of “fair play” would be vindicated. Australia might be proud of protecting its sovereign borders but the cost has been way too high. In the years to come, will future generations wonder at the callousness and unChristian policies and ask: “Why didn’t someone speak out?”
Rosemary Breen, New South Wales, Australia
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