Recently, the Australian federal government abolished the temporary protection system, which had been introduced to deter people from seeking asylum in Australia without a visa and have provided more than 19,000 people with some hope for normalcy in their lives. The government’s action was hailed as a compassionate act towards a small group of people in Australia who have lived for a decade without the rights of citizens in “the lucky country.”
Yet, just one week before, the federal government attempted to overturn a federal court decision, known as “the Pearson finding,” intended to blunt the ‘God-like powers’ of federal ministers and provide some protection for vulnerable people. The Migration Amendment (Aggregate Sentence) Bill 2023 will legalise the mandatory cancellation of visas of those convicted of any crime and will return them to detention and possibly deportation.
It is difficult to accept that a compassionate government would operate in this manner. And the reaction of agencies and organisations set up to give support to asylum seekers and refugees confirms this and one lawyer has stated that the government’s action represents “an approach that has harmed thousands of individuals and families, eroded the rule of law, and left Australia’s migration system in disarray.”
Clearly, the government is not in step with Fr Joseph Cardijn, who stated in a lecture on the human person, given in 1950: “I must respect the person as I would respect God himself. Imagine the incredible and revolutionary value of that truth. The most ordinary young labourer, the most ordinary working girl, a pit brew girl, must be respected and recognised as a person; they must also be helped to be conscious that they are persons. We must help them to become persons, to emancipate themselves, to personalise themselves.” The government’s lack of respect for people who seek refuge in Australia is evident in the feelings of anxiety experienced by those who face uncertainty in their lives and the fear of being deported.
Today is the Feast of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. Seven merchants in the city of Florence, Italy gave up their wealth, took leave of their families and moved into a disused Franciscan Church outside the city walls. Here, in a place called Cafaggio, in 1233, their religious order was born. So what does this have to do with the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia? The seven men sought to live a life of prayer and penance, totally dedicated to God, but found that they could not ignore the needs of people in Florence who came to them for help. The Servites, like many other religious orders, became known and valued for their hospitality.
What can we do to bring about a change in the attitude of the Australian government towards those who seek asylum and refuge in Australia? What can be done to engender a spirit of hospitality in those who are given the responsibility of leading our nation? They need to be surrounded by Good Samaritans. Are there groups in the Church who are committed to providing hospitality to those who experience rejection by our federal government? Let us tell their story to our local members and pray that they be given hearts of flesh to replace their hearts of stone.
Read more …
Catholic organisations hail ‘victory for compassion and common sense’ CathNews, 15 February, 2023.
Human rights organisations condemn Albanese Government trying to push through a rushed Bill to force people back into detention: The Refugee Council of Australia, 8 February, 2023.
Fr Joseph Cardijn: The Person, Family and Education – the 1950 Godinne series of lectures: Lecture 1: The Human Person.