Australian Province issues statement on refugees and asylum seekers

Source: Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference

Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference

In a statement dated August 25, 2013, World Day of Migrants and Refugees in Australia, Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Steve Curtin SJ says Australians need to stop being indifferent to the plight of asylum seekers and start seeing them as human beings like us, in dire need of our help.

“Before he went to Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis visited a detention centre on Lampedusa, an island to which people from North Africa come, seeking a home in Europe. Many die on the sea journey. The Pope asked, ‘Who has grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters?’

“He went on to reflect on those who had died and on the hostility many people feel towards asylum seekers, ‘In this globalised world, we have fallen into globalised indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business.’

‘The Pope’s words speak directly to us as we await an election in which the main political parties compete with each other in devising harsh asylum seeker policies. We are making the same basic mistake made in the story of Adam and Eve, who were persuaded that they could be like God and be the final arbiters of what is right and wrong.

“We live in a world of bloody persecution and crushing poverty, where millions of people are on the move. The majority of Australians have been persuaded that we must be the absolute masters in our own land, and that we must pay any price to stop the boats. We are told we have to be tough. To be tough we have to become more indifferent. We comfort ourselves by believing the lie that the harsh policies are motivated purely by our noble desire to prevent thousands of deaths at sea.

“Actually we do not have mastery over life and death, and others do have rights that we may not simply ignore. God is Lord of creation and the master of our lives too. The people we bundle together as faceless asylum seekers each have faces like ours, lives like ours. They bleed like us, laugh like us, and grieve like us. They are given to us by God as brothers and sisters. We may not pay any price to stop the boats. And we can find better ways to reduce the deaths at sea.”

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