Who could have imagined when we began the journey of 150 Days of Action for Refugees that we would be grieving for the beautiful country of Afghanistan? As we watched the Kabul airport fill with fear, bombs and those desperately seeking safety, we knew we were watching the beginning of life on the road for thousands of people.
This is why it is so important that we stay with the prayers, thoughts and political action necessary to change hearts and minds in our country Australia. Right now, the Australian community is deeply concerned about those we have left behind after 20 years in their country. The media is full of stories of those who need to find safety from the predation and politics of the Taliban and ISIS.
For some, this will be the first time they have thought about those who come by sea, before they have come by sea. The world is watching the next movement of refugees begin and we must be there to welcome, to see and to act responsibility in the face of our own obligations when they reach these shores.
These 150 Days began because Pope Francis declared 2021 to be the Year of St Joseph, who was himself a refugee, and who along with Mary was forced to flee with Jesus, their refugee child. Pope Francis specifically names Joseph as “the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.”
Since then, Pope Francis has also added to Joseph’s titles that of “Patron of Refugees”. The Josephite Justice Network and the Sydney Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Office took this announcement seriously and invited faith communities across Australia to work together to advocate for a change of culture and policy across this country.
The timing of such a declaration was critical because after two decades, it is demonstrably clear that Australia’s treatment of those who come to us seeking protection needs to change. For the past twenty years, refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia have experienced inhumane and cruel treatment.
We need to re-imagine what it would be like to come to a place like Australia and find the way to safety barred – to find a toxic political atmosphere that describes our children, our mums and dads as “illegals” and “queue-jumpers”, as those trying to manipulate the charity of Australia. Australia needs a new heart, a new way to show mercy.
Over the last 130 days we have used all our resources and talents at schools, parishes, within our own communities and organisations to call on the Australian government for three things:
- to provide income support and a financial safety net for all people seeking asylum in Australia
- to end temporary protection visas and create a clear pathway to permanent residency
- to ensure access to family reunion for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia.
On Migrant and Refugee Sunday on 26 September, we come to the culmination of the 150 Days of Action. We hope to welcome you, your families and communities to be a part of this 30-minute ritual on Zoom.
We hope to have up to 500 people participate in this ceremony. We will begin with a welcome to country, followed by a sung call to prayer. We will then ask everyone to turn out lights and light a candle in the dark. We will hold our candles in the dark as we read out the names of all the people who have died in Australia’s detention camps over the last twenty years. We will then conclude with a prayer of lamentation and commitment and a call to all our elected representatives to respond to the three demands of government.
This zoom ceremony will be recorded, and the final video will be sent to every Senator and MP in the Federal Parliament. We are creating a ritual of lamentation and commitment that is also a political document.
View the invitation here.
You’re also invited to attend a webinar titled Hope Out of Horror – Seeking Refuge in Australia on Wednesday 23 September, hosted by Social Justice Around the Bay, St Vincent de Paul, Northern Sydney/Central Coast Regional Social Justice Committee, and Jesuit Refugee Service Australia.
View more information and register here.
Justice and Peace Office – Sydney Archdiocese