Monthly Archives: March 2013

Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Resource Launched

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A new resource to help people to find ways of supporting asylum seekers and refugees in the Brisbane area was officially launched by the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS) Network on Friday at Justice Place, Woolloongabba.

The BRASS Network also celebrated its first birthday at the launch.

The BRASS Network was formed by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in partnership with representatives of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and the Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the network works with a range of refugee support agencies to find volunteers to support asylum seekers in the local detention centre and those living in the community.

“BRASS has brought together churches, refugee support agencies, refugee communities and individuals who are committed to the dignity of refugees and asylum seekers,” Mr Arndt said.

“BRASS is providing us in the churches an excellent opportunity to find out where the needs and problems are for refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.

“We have sent out requests for volunteers and various forms of help via our electronic bulletin and in special letters to parishes throughout the year as a result of the connections we have made with agencies and with asylum seekers directly,” he added.

“Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbours and to welcome the stranger is motivating so many good people to reach out to refugees and asylum seekers in the Brisbane area,” he said.

“There are so many inspiring stories about what these good people have done,” he said.

“Christians in Australia have an immensely important responsibility to humanise the discussion about refugees and asylum seekers and getting to know them and help them is an important first step in carrying out that responsibility,” he said.

“Those of us on the Commission who have been involved in the BRASS Network feel very privileged that we have been able to learn the stories of so many asylum seekers and refugees and to support them in some way,” he said.

The new resource called “Walking Together” is available by emailing em.fl@bne.catholic.net.au.

Everyone who is interested in supporting refugees and asylum seekers is welcome to participate in BRASS Network monthly meetings.

“There is so much you will learn and so much in terms of support and advocacy in which you can get involved,” he said.

The next BRASS Network meeting will take place on Friday 19 April at 10 a.m. at Justice Place, 5 Abingdon Street, Woolloongabba. More information about the BRASS Network can be obtained by contacting Peter Arndt at the Commission’s office on 3336 9173 or by e-mailing arndtp@bne.catholic.net.au

Good Friday Death Penalty Prayer Vigil

You are invited to join us to pray for all those on death row in Indonesia and around the world.

 The two Australians on death row in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and the Nigerian man supported by Corinda-Graceville Parish, Titus Ani, will be the special focus of our prayers, but all women and men waiting for execution around the world will be remembered in prayer on the day Jesus was put to death on the cross.

 

    FRIDAY 29 MARCH 2013

 12 Noon

 CHRIST THE KING CATHOLIC CHURCH

Churchill Street, Graceville

 

All are welcome.

 

For further information, please contact the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of Brisbane on 3336 9173 or arndtp@bne.catholic.net.au

Caution Urged on Proposals to Relax Liquor and Gaming Rules

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane has urged the Queensland Government to take caution in relation to proposals to relax Queensland’s liquor and gaming laws.

The Commission was responding to some of the proposals raised in a discussion paper which has arisen as part of the Government’s Red Tape Reform agenda.

In particular, the Commission has expressed its opposition to some of the gaming machine proposals contained in the discussion paper as well as proposals to allow clubs and hotels with gaming machines to open before 10 a.m., to let lapse the moratorium on extended liquor trading in areas outside a number of urban entertainment precincts, and to lift trading restrictions on Anzac Day, Good Friday and Christmas Day.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Government’s Red Tape Reform Program aims to foster more opportunities for businesses to grow and create economic prosperity, but some of the proposals for reforms in the area of liquor and gaming have the potential to diminish other important aspects which promote the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

“Job opportunities are essential for the welfare of individuals and their families,” Mr Arndt said.

“Without jobs with fair pay and conditions, people will struggle to live with dignity and to provide for their family,” he said.

“However, making money is not the sole purpose of life,” he said.

“We also need to put a value on sharing time with our families and friends, on participation in the life of the community and on those momentous events which have played an important part in shaping our society and its culture,” he said.

“We believe that most people don’t want trading restrictions lifted on Anzac Day, Good Friday or Christmas Day,” he said.

“These are high days of the greatest importance when people want to put the priority on other things besides money and the economy,” he said.

“We believe most people want Anzac Day to remain a solemn day when the community remembers and pays respect to those who have died during wars and conflict,” he said.

“Whether people go to church or not, we think most Australians recognise the great significance of the life and death of Jesus Christ and want Good Friday and Christmas Day to remain special days free of money-making and business,” he said.

“We should especially remember the staff who work in clubs and hotels who mostly don’t want to work on Christmas Day because they want to spend it with their loved ones,” he said.

“Current restrictions on gaming machines should not be eased because this has the potential to create more misery for people with a gambling problem,” he said.

“We don’t think that the limits on the size of banknotes you can use in machines or the limit on the amount you can put in a machine at any time inconveniences anyone and it is better to keep the current restrictions to protect problem gamblers from more harm,” he said.

“Most people are not worried that clubs can’t open before 10 a.m. and we think keeping it that way reduces the potential harm for problem gamblers by limiting their access to machines,” he said.

“We also suggest that the moratorium on extended liquor trading in areas outside select urban entertainment precincts should be extended because this helps to reduce liquor-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“We would much rather let police focus their prevention and enforcement strategies on a handful of precincts than have them try to keep a lid on alcohol-fuelled violence in suburban pubs and taverns all over the State,” he said.

The Commission has provided feedback on the proposals to the Justice Department and understands other church organisations have done so too.

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 Mandate 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.

Good Friday Death Penalty Prayer Vigil Continues

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, with the cooperation of the Corinda-Graceville Parish, will again hold a death penalty prayer vigil on Good Friday, 29 March 2013.

The vigil will be held at noon at Christ the King Catholic Church, Churchill Street, Graceville.

The Good Friday vigils began in 2008 and are held in the home parish of the family of Scott Rush who was convicted of drug offences in Indonesia and sentenced to death.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that, while Scott Rush is no longer facing the death penalty, two other Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are still on death row.

“We think it is important to spend time in prayer and solidarity with those who face execution, with their families and with the victims of crime,” Mr Arndt said.

“As we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, the love which his cross symbolises prompts us to spend time in prayer for those who face the executioner,” he said.

“There is no doubt that some of those on death row have done some terrible things, but we are asked to pray for them and to encourage them to turn their backs on sin rather than to condemn them,” he said.

“Even though he no longer faces execution, we continue to pray for Scott Rush and his family too as life imprisonment in another country is not an easy thing to bear,” he said.

“We also encourage people to promote abolition of the death penalty around the world,” 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 Mandate 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.

Christians Encouraged to Counter Demonisation of Asylum Seekers with Love

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane has encouraged Christians to counter the demonization of asylum seekers in the current public debate by reaching out to asylum seekers with love, compassion and a sense of justice.

 

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the approach of both the Federal Government and the Opposition encourages demonization and dehumanisation of asylum seekers, misinformation and unwarranted fear.

 

“The Federal Government is intent on subjecting asylum seekers to the most cruel and unjust regime of either living in the Australian community with grossly inadequate income and little or no opportunities for work or meaningful activity or to a life of languishing in offshore detention for years in a difficult environment on Manus Island or Nauru,” Mr Arndt said.

 

“The Opposition, on the other hand, wants to turn back the boats, to reintroduce the perpetual anxiety and stress of temporary protection visas and to make asylum seekers pariahs if they are placed in the community by insisting on profiling and a system of community notification,” he said.

 

“When you add to these approaches attempts by various politicians to foster the notion that some refugees are more ‘deserving’ than others, you have a disastrous recipe for turning flesh and blood human beings with stories of dreadful persecution and horror into demons and objects of public scorn,” he said.

 

“We know there is fear and discomfort within some parts of the community with the arrival of more people from places like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq, but we cannot sit back and allow politicians to respond to this or even manipulate it for their own gain by subjecting asylum seekers to increasingly nasty, callous and unfair treatment,” he said.,” he said.

 

“We urge Christians to challenge this fear and cruelty by reaching out to asylum seekers in detention centres and in the community, to learn their stories of pain and suffering and to give them the respect and the dignity they deserve as fellow human beings,” he said.

 

Mr Arndt said that he and members of the Commission’s Refugee Working Group had spent the last year reaching out to refugees by visiting them in the local detention centre at Pinkenba, providing practical support to asylum seekers in the community, assisting them with judicial reviews in the Federal Magistrates Court and by advocating policy changes in meetings and communications with both the Immigration Minister and the Shadow Minister, various local MPs and Senators and with officials of the Department of Immigration.

 

“This activity by the Commission is matched by the work of countless Catholics and other Christians locally who have walked with asylum seekers and lovingly supported them while they wait for a decision on their applications for protection,” Mr Arndt said.

 

“By supporting asylum seekers here in Brisbane, many Christians have come to know their personal stories of horror and fear and have come to understand why the approach of our political leaders is so inappropriate and unjust,” he said.

 

“I will always remember how I was affected when I joined with a number of Tamil and Iranian asylum seekers in the detention centre at Pinkenba to celebrate Eucharist on Christmas Eve last year,” he said.

 

“Fr Pan Jordan, a local Tamil priest, led the Eucharist for which the Catholic asylum seekers were so deeply grateful,” he said.

 

“It was an immensely moving experience to celebrate Eucharist with men who had legs blown off, who had lost the power to speak and who were so full of anxiety and distress,” he said.

 

“Asylum seekers are human beings and they must be treated as such,” he said.

 

Mr Arndt said that the Commission had also worked with representatives of the Anglican and Uniting Churches to form a support network for refugees and asylum seekers in the Brisbane area, the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network (BRASS).

 

“We are very pleased that many refugee agencies and communities, churches and individual Christians and people of good will have been coming together for a year now to share information about refugees and asylum seekers and to increase the support being offered to people who have been through so much suffering in their own countries,” he said.

 

“We urge more Christians to break down the demonization and hatred of asylum seekers with the love of Christ,” 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 Mandate 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.