The Forum speakers:
at last week’s statement release.
THE Australian Catholic Bishops’ recently released Social Justice Statement “For those who’ve come across the seas – Justice for Refugees and Asylum Seekers”, was welcomed in Ballarat last Wednesday.
Councillor Belinda Coates, on behalf of the Ballarat City Council, opened proceedings by saying that the current refugee tragedy engulfing Europe, and until recently playing out in the waters off the Australian Coast is a crisis of great magnitude.
She said in part, “Around the world hundreds of thousands of people are on the move, or wasting away in camps or detention centres. Tragically, it seems no one wants them.”
“I applaud the authors of the Social Justice Statement 2015-2016. I acknowledge that it’s a document of the Catholic Church – but the truths it contains and the sentiments it expresses go beyond religion.”
The document cuts to the core of the issue and is an unequivocal statement of how a civilized society should treat refuges and asylum seekers.
Father Constantine Osuchukwu of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Bakery Hill, said he came to Australia as a twenty-four-year-old in 2003 from Nigeria.
“I wasn’t a refugee or an asylum seeker fleeing persecution or violence,” he said.
“I came here as a migrant of my own volition. In my 12 years in Australia I have had nothing but positive experiences.
“My own personal experience is that Australia is a country of a thousand welcomes. While my experience has been mostly positive, I know that not all migrants or refugees have been as blessed as I have been.”
Father Constantine added that he was not native to think there are easy answers or a magic bullet to end the global refugee crisis and welcomed the Social Justice Statement because it calls people to reflect on the impact of our policies.
Bishop Paul Bird responded by saying he commended the document and underlined one of the themes that runs through the text – the good examples of Australians welcoming those who have come to this country.
“I was pleased to hear that Australia will resettle 12,000 refugees from the current war torn regions of the Middle East,” he said.
“I have also been pleased that many church and other community groups are already looking at how they can help these refugees when they arrive from December onwards.”
The Social Justice Statement “For those who’ve come across the seas – Justice for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, comes in three sections.
The first draws on scripture and the social teaching of the Church, emphasizing the principles of human dignity, the option for the poor, and solidarity as foundations for how we should respond to the call of the asylum seeker.
The second section aims to lift the gaze from a myopic focus on the interception of boats and detention of asylum seekers.
The final section calls for a new global response of compassion.