Refugee Week

Refugee Week

Sunday 16 June to Saturday 22 June

As a £10 Pom who migrated to Australia in the 1960’s with my family, the dilemma of migration to our great land is very close to my heart.? What my family did in migrating to Australia along with many thousands of other families would be today termed as ‘economic migration’, but for us at the time, we were leaving all we knew, on the basis of ‘hope’.? A hope for a better life, hope for more opportunities for employment, hope for better education and hope for a better place to grow up.? Thanks to the sponsorship and support of family in Australia that hope proved correct, for which I am eternally grateful.

Restoring that hope to refugees and migrants is the ongoing theme of Refugee Week from Sunday 16 June to Saturday 22 June.  Refugees flee their homelands not only because they fear persecution, but also because they have hope: they hope to find freedom from persecution, and safety and security for themselves and their families; they hope to be given a chance to start a new life and recover from past trauma.??

But we have witnessed in the events of the last few days how fragile that hope can become.? The preventable deaths of up to 60 asylum seekers must destroy hope for their families and friends

Refugees and Asylum seekers are undoubtedly a complex issue that many nations around the word face, but Australia seems to have turned into something of a political circus that is damaging the lives of many vulnerable people.? To get some idea of the political complexities of this issue and some idea of its effects, it is worth taking the time to watch Greg Lake (former director Nauru Regional Processing Centre) explore the issue of Asylum seekers, Government policy and Jesus.? He shares some of his experiences and how his Christian convictions gave shaped his response to this very difficult issue.? His final point is that ‘knee jerk reactions’ have led to stupid government policies that are not guided by the simple principle that people matter and they are valuable.

It is this simple principle that is core to Catholic social justice teaching.? Human dignity is always more important than things and people must never be treated as mere instruments, as a means to and end.? The full range of human rights that arise from this God-given human dignity must be respected in asylum seekers, refugees or migrants, regardless of their age, nationality, religion or legal status.? It is not legitimate for nations to respond to migration out of a narrow sense of national interest.? “The human person has primacy over the state, which exists only to serve the human person be organising and promoting the common good“. (The Call to Hospitality: Catholic Teaching on Refugees; Sandie Cornish (2002) Catholic Social Justice Series Papers #44)?

As practicing Catholics Pope John Paul II spoke to us in his message for the 85th World Migration Day in 1999 that “The importance of the parish in welcoming the stranger, in integrating baptized persons from different cultures and in dialoguing with believers of other religions stems from the mission of every parish community and its significance within society. This is not an optional, supplementary role for the parish community, but a duty inherent in its task as an institution”.

Over the next week and beyond there are many opportunities to take up that duty in our Christian lives.? One of the easiest would be to come along to the Refugee Welcome Fiesta on the Fremantle Esplanade on Saturday 22 June to express solidarity and celebrate diversity. (See poster)

The result maybe a renewal of hope for refugees, for our community and ourselves that maybe expressed in the eyes of all Australians!

Hopefully we will see you there

Nigel Hayward, Project Officer

Updated: June 17, 2013 — 2:23 am
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