This is a reflection that I wrote for the Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office’s kit for Migrant & Refugee Sunday. You can download the whole kit here. The Holy Family in Exile If you were asked to paint an icon of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, how would you depict them in a symbol or image? The dominant images in the media have been of boats rather than people. When we have glimpsed the people in the boats, we have largely seen men on their own, not whole families. Our faith sources suggest quite a different icon or symbol.
20 June is World Refugee Day. To help you to celebrate achievements, and to plan for more effective action, here are links to a selection of quotes for reflection from the CST Quotes section of our website. Bishop Gerard Hanna 27 May 2014 Policy is putting lives at risk. Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 8 May 2014. Bishops plea: respect asylum seekers’ rights. Bishop Gerard Hanna, 1 May 2014 Don’t shift Responsibility for resettlement. Australian Catholic Bishops, 1 April 2014. Asylum seekers need access to legal advice. PNG Solomon Island Bishops, 28 February 2014. Death on Manus Island. Bishop Gerard Hanna, 19 February 2014. Australian Bishops mourn death of asylum seeker. Pope Francis, 29 December 2013. Rejecting the Holy Family. Australian Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement 2013 – 2014 Solidarity & protection. Bishop Christopher Saunders, 21 January 2014. Asylum seekers need protection and security. Pope Francis, 1 January 2014. Sisters and brothers, not enemies. PNG SI Bishops, July 2013. PNG and Solomon Islands Bishops shocked at refugee deal with Australia. Bishop Gerard Hanna, July 2013. It is not wrong to seek asylum. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963 Ease the pain of migration. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963, n 106. The right to migrate. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, n 104, 1963. Refugees have human rights. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, n 102, 1963. Provide employment in home countries. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, n 25, 1963. Freedom of movement.
The National Council of Priests of Australia have backed the Bishops’ 8 May 2014 statement on Australia’s asylum and refugee policies. They say: Like our Bishops, many of us have seen the faces and heard the stories of these people and cannot hide our shame at the way some are being treated. Here is the full text of their 14 May 2014 statement…
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Delegate for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Gerard Hanna, has spoken out against the axing of funding for legal assistance to asylum seekers. “Whenever a person’s life is threatened, it is just and fair that they should be able to make a valid application for protection. The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme enabled asylum seekers to do this,” Bishop Hanna said. For background, read immigration lawyer Kerry Murphy’s comments here.
Bishop Gerard Hanna, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Delegate for Migrants and Refugees expressed deep sadness at the death of an asylum seeker detained on Manus Island. A riot at the Australian funded offshore detention facility left dozens of other asylum seekers injured. The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office called on the Australian government to ensure each person’s claim for protection is considered under Australian Law by competent independent authorities, with appropriate legal assistance and access to an independent judiciary such as the Refugee Review Tribunal. Read the media release here. How might we move people’s hearts to welcome, rather than seeking to deter, those who seek asylum? What causes us to reject and to marginalize some groups of people?
In a 7 November 2016 statement Bishop Vincent Long calls on Australians to reject cruel refugee measures proposed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton. They intend to introduce legislation banning refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat from 19 July 2013 onwards from ever being able to apply for a visa to Australia. The proposed legislation would apply even to those found to be bona fide refugees. He called the move “deeply disappointing.” Bishop Vincent Long is the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Delegate for Refugees. Bishop Long reminds the Australian community that: “Seeking asylum even by boat is not illegal. It is a basic human right. Yet not content with demeaning them, the Australian government now want to introduce laws that will ban them from ever coming here.” A former boat person himself, Bishop Long appealed “to all political leaders to resist this latest mean-spirited move against asylum seekers and to reclaim the reputation of a decent, humane and generous country; it is the kind of country that refugees like myself are indebted to and proud to call home.” Full Statement on Proposed Refugee Measures Read the full text of Bishop Long’s statement here.
The Catholic Church in Australia will celebrate Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 on 28 August. Bishop Calls for Culture of Encounter and Welcome Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, the Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Migrants and Refugees said, “Australia has had a long history of welcoming migrants and refugees, including many ‘boat people’ who in turn have contributed to its wellbeing and development”. He added that Pope Francis’ example provides us with “a timely and fresh impetus to reclaim the welcoming and generous spirit that has shaped our great nation”. Bishop Long said that in this Year of Mercy, with many newly arrived migrants and refugees in Australia, we must enact a culture of encounter, welcome and acceptance in practical, personal and communal ways. He expressed appreciation for the parishes and organisations that are “actively assisting refugees that have recently arrived from war-torn Syria and Iraq.” He saw this as “a great opportunity for us to make a difference and to influence government policies in relation to refugees and asylum seekers”. Bishop Says Close the Offshore Immigration Detention Centres Bishop Long pleaded with the Australian authorities to close offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru immediately. He called for an end to the sufferings of the asylum seekers by way of a more humane solution. “Any breach of their right to be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity will stain our conscience and blight our future as a nation,” he said. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier indicated that the Manus Island Detention Centre would close – but there was no hurry. The Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office disagreed, saying “… we urge that a solution to the situation of the men in the detention centre ought to be decided quickly. Many of these men have already been in detention for more than three years.” Read the Media Releases You can read Bishop Long’s statement to the media here. The ACMRO media release on the closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre is here. Kit for Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2016 The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office offers a kit with information and resources to help parishes and communities to celebrate this event. The Kit is available here. More on Catholic Social Teaching You can find an overview of Catholic Social Teaching on people on the move here.