Seeking asylum: A Christian issue

Seeking asylum: A Christian issue

Dear Insights,

Some of us at the Pitt St. Uniting Church, where I am a member, see the treatment of people seeking asylum in Australia as very much a Christian issue. And some of us find the locking up of the most vulnerable of people, fleeing danger in their own country (where Australia has sometimes had a hand), deeply troubling. One does not even have to refer to the parable of the Good Samaritan, although one can. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, in the case of the people scapegoated by the Australian government.

I would like to thank people such as Warren, Rebecca, Des, and Lizzy, who have supported the weekly protest for human rights and justice for refugees, we have held every week for over two years at 5pm every Friday, now at the Sydney town hall steps. And a shout out to our friend Kerry Phillips and her group who do the same in Melbourne, and also our friends in Newcastle and Adelaide, who also stand up for the people our government falsely calls ‘illegals’ and who we are obliged to under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, or simply as decent human beings.

Despite Behrouz Boochani finding sanctuary in Aotearoa-New Zealand, where my father also found freedom (as a refugee from Austria in 1940) there are still 500 people being held as Australia’s political hostages on PNG and on Nauru, often in appalling conditions.

I was recently charged with graffiti offences. I was writing in support of refugee rights. The ABC and certainly the commercial stations are closed to these arguments. I received statements in support of this action, and one was from Noam Chomsky, US dissident, linguist and activist:

“Pope Francis described the “refugee crisis” as in reality a moral crisis of the West. He was quite right. There are no words to capture adequately the reaction of the rich and privileged to the plight of miserable people fleeing from disaster, one of the great scandals of modern history, reminiscent of the refusal—particularly on the part of the US—to accept Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany, consigning them to gas chambers. The competition for championship in moral depravity is keen, but Australia ranks high. And we are only witnessing the early stages of the crisis, sure to escalate as the impact of global warming has its sharply increasing impact, thanks in no small measure to the international criminals who are dedicated to bringing on the catastrophe, the US in the lead and Australia trying hard to keep up.”

I believe we should take Noam Chomsky’s words, and those of Pope Francis, very seriously.

We would love to see more Uniting Church people at our ‘Happenings’ on Fridays, 5pm, at the Town Hall Steps. This is not only about the people the Australian state has been scapegoating for decades, but about the place we want our kids and grandkids to grow up in. Please join us. In the Uniting Church we could make this a campaign issue, and really show our mettle.

Best wishes and in solidarity,

Stephen Langford OT (Order of Timor)


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