Care for Christmas Island: President’s Appeal
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Rev.Alistair Macrae, has launched an Appeal to support a ministry of pastoral care and spiritual support for detainees and staff at Christmas Island Detention Centre.
Last year Mr Macrae visited Christmas Island with the Anglican Archbishop of Perth, the Most Rev. Dr Roger Herft.
Now the Uniting Church in Australia and the Anglican Diocese of Perth are undertaking to send a chaplain to Christmas Island to provide pastoral support for detainees.
Mr Macrae said, “The Uniting Church has been consistent in its advocacy for a more humane approach to asylum seekers.
“While we oppose offshore detention strongly, and recognising that it will be there for the foreseeable future, we need to match our advocacy with a demonstration of pastoral care and spiritual support of those detained or working in these dreadful places.”
The debate over asylum seekers continues to polarise politics and Australian society.
The rhetoric has been charged on both sides but the real victims of the politicking have been the asylum seekers themselves.
People wait in limbo in detention on Christmas Island and other places, waiting to hear if they can pursue a new life in Australia or if they must go back “where they came from”. In the majority cases, that means places of violence, conflict and uncertainty.
The mental health toll of prolonged mandatory detention can be devastating and there are numerous reported cases of self harm, mental illness and even suicides in Australia’s detention centres.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman report on Christmas Island found that there were too many people being detained at the Christmas Island immigration detention facilities and the scale of operations on the geographically remote island were not sustainable.
The operational capacity of the Detention Centre is 744, yet numbers have fluctuated above 2600 in 2011 — 2000 more than what the facilities were designed for.
If the appeal is successful, a chaplain will be trained in sensitivity to multicultural and multi-faith realities and respect for clients’ spiritual or religious preferences.
Providing this spiritual support will show compassion, love and support for detainees and staff on Christmas Island.
Organisers hope they may be able to provide a similar ministry in other detention facilities as well.
To support the appeal and show care for those in Christmas Island by providing a chaplain, and follow the links for Care for Christmas Island on the Assembly website.