Asylum Seekers: Cn approach

Friday Forum at the Cathedral – St David’s Cathedral Hobart 27 May 2011
Send them home? A Christian perspective on asylum seekers
A Christian approach to any ethical issue seeks to delineate the basic categories of the participants and their respective roles in the ethical scenario under consideration.
We are also called to recognise that the detail of particular issues may need further work/ research and some facts may never be fully known. Therefore genuine differences of opinion will occur and they are to be held with civility and courtesy. We are to care for one another in this conversation.
The current conversation has been emotionally charged in particular since the Tampa boat was turned away by the Australian Government in 2001.
    1. The Dignity of Each and Every Human Being as Made in the Image of God

    Common humanity  Genesis 1:27-31
    2. Stewards of God’s world – the world is not owned by us but cared for by us Luke 20:9-19

    3. We are recipients of God’s rescue mission of grace – Rebels against God/ outsiders have been welcomed into Christ’s community/ insiders. God has been and is generous to us. Ephesians 2:1-10,19,22; 5:25b-27; Rev 19:6-9
    1. Australians
Most Australians are immigrants, the early European settlers were invaders
Early history of people from every land; eg, Afghanis as camel traders, The Ghan train through central Australia
secular/ no religion is favoured over another and there is no official state religion in Australia
‘underdog’ – help those who are in need. Mateship.
Relatively wealthy and stable country
    2. Christians
Called to be ‘salt and light’  Matthew 5:13-16
Citizens in a democratic nation with the capacity to speak and participate in civic life and in church communities.
Asylum seekers as those people seeking protection in another country from persecution for race, religious, ethnic, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion in their own country.
They have great need for compassion having fled the land of their birth; lose of identity, language, house, work, etc
There are about 20 + million refugees in the world
They come to Australia through many means
Compared to that those 4,000 coming to Australia these are a tiny minority
    1. Love for neighbour
Who is my neighbour? – Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. The outsider/ the other helped the insider/ ‘one of us’.
Will we be neighbour?
What would we want done to us?
We are called to be neighbours. The danger of ‘Nimby’. But note that Jesus is always crossing boundaries, eg. Samaritan woman, lepers, sinful woman, Roman centurion, widows. Early church we have Peter needing a vision to help him answer the question: Can a gentile, Cornelius, be a follower of Christ? Acts 11:2,3
    2. Alien and foreign person in the Old Testament
Deuteronomy 10:18,19; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:19,22
Migrants choose to join for reasons of commercial reasons
Asylum seekers/ refugees for reasons of persecution in their own country; no longer able to survive in their own country
    3. Children are a special category for our love and compassion
Children Are Special To God
The Responsibility to Protect Protocol, applies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child endorsed by the UN 15 years ago, and signed by Australia, to allow cross border interventions and refugees and has a strong focus on children. Eg, Libya today, the justification to intervene in Libya is to protect children. Protecting innocent children on boats, in refugee camps, driven from their homelands by civil war or ethnic oppression, should resonate with most Australian parents.
Let’s welcome children suffering from other people’s wars, give them a welcome to Tasmania and affirm the diversity they will bring to our culture.
– In March 2008, 12 year old Abbas Nazari who, as a six year old, had been one of the Afghan refugees picked up by the MV Tampa and subsequently refused asylum in Australia, came third in a New Zealand schools’ spelling competition. Interviewed after the competition, he commented: “The whole thing occurred around 9/11, the Australian government had its reasons to not provide a refuge for us… Australia didn’t want us because they thought we were terrorists… but New Zealand listened to us and they thought we weren’t terrorist ‘n’ stuff.”[20] Note: Tampa
Jesus called the children to him and said “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” Luke 18:16 (TNIV)
    4. Australia is right in protecting its borders. Australia can quite understandably organise to be protected through its government from criminals and unlimited immigration from people seeking to enter Australia simply for a preferred economic or societal lifestyle.
Our systems may be unable to sustain a borderless Australia. For this reason nations have developed criteria that appropriately define asylum seekers as those people seeking protection in another country from persecution for race, religious, ethnic, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion in their own country. Europe is already closing its borders due to the enormity of the people’s revolutions in the Middle East causing persecution and thus asylum seekers with the resultant dislocation to Europe’s communities.
A big Australia needs to balance population growth: workers and retired; the need to care for our increasingly older community; land which is desert to produce food; care for the environment and sustainable living. We need to balance of all these things for the common good.
Immigration as announced by the Prime Minister: 180,000 net immigrants includes 18,000 refugees [4,000 Malaysia + 4,000 PNG + 4,000 Thailand? – may need increasing]. Malaysia agrees on ‘no’ to caning. Australia is sending 800 very expensive asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Resettlement of refuges is not easy. English, integration of dislocated people – level of trauma and need for support, identity. King Island. Highly motivated.
Is there not enough good will in our community for these people to be cared for in the community? Rather than prisons being run by security firms. Why have children behind fences?
    5. T he motion on the Treatment of Refugees which was passed at the General Synod 2010 of the Anglican Church of Australia was moved by the Registrar of the Diocese of Tasmania, Russell Morton. It is before our Tasmanian Anglican Synod next week:
(a) that members of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania do not minimise the complexity of the issues surrounding the arrival on our shores of men, women and children; however
(b) that the Synod, affirming unambiguously the clear teaching of Scripture about the value of every person in the sight of God, urges that the Government take immediate and sufficient steps to ensure that all persons intercepted on their way to or arriving on our shores, by whatever means, are treated with dignity, respect and in a way which does not impact adversely on their physical or mental well-being.
A Christian approach to this issue seeks to hold together the dignity of each and every human being as made in the image of God, love of neighbour, the provision for the alien and stranger in our midst, respect for the government and our responsibility as citizens in a civil society.


Asylum Seekers: Cn approach — 2 Comments

  1. Insightful comment from Jesuit journal, Eureka Street:
    ‘Labor worse than Howard on asylum seekers’
    by Andrew Hamilton May 22, 2011
    In part,
    Effectively, Australia is excluding from the right to claim protection a group of people who flee to Australia to escape persecution. Instead it will condemn them to treatment that amounts to an abuse of their human dignity. The mental illness developed by those on PNG and the hopelessness of existence in Malaysia, with its attendant cruelties, will deter others from trying to come to Australia by boat. Human beings are being punished in order to achieve broader policy goals.

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