by Mr Peregrin Campbell-Osgood | Project Officer
Each year around this time, Australia celebrates Refugee Week as a way of honouring the contribution refugees make to our society. It is also a time to remember and reflect upon the often terrifying, dangerous and perilous journeys many refugees make before finding sanctuary in Australia.
Christian and other faith groups celebrate Refugee Sunday during this time as a day to focus our prayers, hearts and services in companionship with refugees and people seeking asylum. Our Church has a long history of supporting and offering sanctuary to refugees. This is our response to the injunction for us to care for the foreigner or alien in our midst: ‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:34a).
Today in Australia there are many people among us who are not treated or loved as our fellow citizens. They are denied the full social support and work rights given to citizens as they seek asylum and refuge, often for an extended indefinite period while their asylum requests are processed.
Because of our modern urban life, coupled with the need for many people seeking asylum to work in regional areas, our physical neighbours may not be refugees or asylum seekers. We may not, in our daily life, ‘see’ the pain and suffering caused by our government policies on refugees and people seeking asylum.
St Teresa of Avila, however, reminds us that ours are the eyes with which Christ ‘looks compassion on this world’. It is our seeing of the reality of the current refugee arrangements in Australia that will allow Christ to look with compassion. We are therefore called to see, so Christ may see, the reality of the situation. We can begin by going to the Refugee Council of Australia’s website or Refugee Week's website and reading the stories of people, taking note of the statistics, remembering each number means a unique person made in the image of God.
And as St Teresa continues, Christ has no body, no hands, and no feet now but ours. So, moved by what we see and know, we may act as Christ and act with our hands, feet and bodies. As we shake the hand of the politicians we meet to advocate for refugees and people seeking asylum. As we embrace the stranger in our midst, as we write letters seeking change – as we wildly, but with love, gesticulate to make our point when discussing with family and friends.
This important work is not up to ‘the Diocese’ or the Archbishop; it is not up to the Social Responsibilities Commission, it is up to us all, as we are all the eyes, hands and body of Christ.
A PRAYER FOR REFUGEES
Almighty and merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own;
look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.
Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of
justice and of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here are a few videos that centre around the direct experiences of people of refugee background:
- Najeeba Wazefadost – Founder and President of Hazara Women of Australia
- Munjed Al Muderis – Orthopaedic Surgeon and Clinical
- Hieu Van Le – Governor of South Australia
For more nuanced and complex subject matter, here are longer videos from the Refugee Alternatives Conference in Brisbane 2020: