Commission Urges Catholics to Prioritise Human Dignity in Refugee Debate

Monday 20 April 2009

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged Catholics to put a priority on the human dignity of those recently seeking asylum in Australia.

This follows the new debate about Australia’s refugee policy which has emerged since a boat carrying asylum seekers headed for Australia exploded causing death and serious injury to many on board.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission is concerned by a range of comments which are critical of asylum seekers and which also seek a return to harsher refugee policies.

“The Commission is concerned that some Australians are already expressing very negative sentiments towards those seeking asylum in Australia,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is also worried by those who accuse the Federal Government of encouraging greater numbers of asylum seekers to come to Australia by ‘softening’ our refugee policy,” he said.

“The most important thing we must keep in mind in this current situation is that asylum seekers coming to Australia are human beings who are fleeing from dreadful situations,” he said.

“We cannot return to policies which clearly caused enormous harm to people who were already traumatized by their experiences in their homeland,” he said.

“Subjecting people to the psychological distress caused by indefinite detention in Australia, by letting them stay indefinitely on Nauru and by putting them on temporary protection visas is inhuman,” he said.

“If we believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, we cannot support actions which degrade and harm our fellow human beings,” he said.

“We ask Catholics to stand up for the human dignity of people seeking asylum,” he said.

“We cannot stand silent and allow cruel and inhuman treatment of those seeking refuge in Australia to be proposed again,” he said.

“We must all try to find out more about the horrible things that people are experiencing in places like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and in refugee camps around the world so that we can understand why people are so desperate to come to places like Australia,” he said.

“As Christians, we must promote compassion and love, not cruelty and hate,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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