3 August 2015
In their annual Social Justice Statement to mark Social Justice Sunday in September the Catholic Bishops of Australia are urging all Australians not to succumb to a ‘globalisation of indifference’ that takes away the ability to understand the plight of people fleeing violence and persecution and to respond with generosity and compassion.
The Social Justice Statement challenges Australians to think again about their national response to asylum seekers, especially those who come to Australia by sea recently described by Archbishop Mark Coleridge as 'a moral failure and an international disgrace'. It invites all to recognise the desperation that has driven these people to seek refuge far from their homes.
The Statement takes its inspiration from the actions and words of Pope Francis on his 2013 visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he met the survivors of a refugee tragedy and mourned for those who had died. As he said in his sermon at Lampedusa:
‘Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. ... These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. ... Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families?’
With almost 60 million people around the world displaced and in flight, the escalation of the crises in countries such as Iraq and Syria has seen the highest level of displacement since the Second World War. In Australia, the response has been a hardening of heart in immigration and border security policy based on deterrence and detention – the ‘turning back the boats’ approach.
The Bishops appeal to Australia’s history of welcoming those seeking asylum and protection and propose an alternative approach to the current focus of detention and deterrence. The statement calls for important changes, including: respectful and informed policy debate; onshore processing; regional cooperation to expand protection and resettlement places; a substantial increase in our humanitarian intake; and assurances that no person is ever deported to danger.
Visit the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council website for order forms and details about Social Justice Sunday.
(the title of the statement given in the headline of this story is taken from the words of Australia’s national anthem 'For Those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share …`)