Category Archives: Social Justice Sunday

Building Bridges, Not Walls: Prisons and the justice system

Social Justice Sunday 2011 – 25 September

Resources available from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Letter from Archbishop Philip Wilson (pdf)
Order form (pdf) 
Summary (pdf)
Media release (pdf)
Liturgy notes (pdf)
Community and schools resource (pdf)
PowerPoint presentation (pptx)

Social Justice Statement 2011–2012 (pdf)
Social Justice Statement 2011–2012 (doc)

A Call for Christians to Stand Up for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Monday 20 June 2011

 

In the current debate on Australia’s policy on the treatment of asylum seekers, it is imperative that Christians be active in promoting respect for the dignity of every human being who flees persecution and violence and seeks asylum in our country.

There is little evidence that respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers is at the heart of either the Government’s or the Opposition’s policies.  Both sides support prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seekers in isolated centres on mainland Australia and in offshore facilities; both sides have been responsible in government for locking up many children seeking asylum; and both sides are willing to ‘export’ asylum seekers to other countries where they are deprived of basic rights and subjected to further danger or harm.  These approaches can only add to the trauma, anxiety and deprivation suffered by asylum seekers.  They demonstrate a deplorable lack of compassion and are grossly unjust.

It is also apparent that the willingness of major political parties to adopt harsh policies which subject asylum seekers to trauma, humiliation and indignity is, in part, fuelled by hostile attitudes among some in the Australian community towards people of different races, ethnicities and religions.  Such intolerance and discrimination should not shape Australia’s policies on the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees nor should they be accepted by Christians or condoned by their silence.

In his Message for World Migrant and Refugee Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the responsibility of Christians to be a sign of union with God and of the unity of the human family.  He said that it was imperative for us to welcome refugees as our sisters and brothers:

“… in the case of those who are forced to migrate, solidarity is nourished by the “reserve” of love that is born from considering ourselves a single human family and, for the Catholic faithful, members of the Mystical Body of Christ: in fact we find ourselves depending on each other, all responsible for our brothers and sisters in humanity and, for those who believe, in the faith. As I have already had the opportunity to say, ‘Welcoming refugees and giving them hospitality is for everyone an imperative gesture of human solidarity, so that they may not feel isolated because of intolerance and disinterest’.”

The Pope goes on to explain what welcoming our sisters and brothers seeking asylum entails:

“This means that those who are forced to leave their homes or their country will be helped to find a place where they may live in peace and safety, where they may work and take on the rights and duties that exist in the Country that welcomes them, contributing to the common good and without forgetting the religious dimension of life.”

While the Pope acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to regulate the flow of migrants and to defend their borders, he insists that, whatever they do in this regard, they must always guarantee “the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person.”

The Government’s proposed agreement with Malaysia clearly fails to guarantee respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers.  It proposes to engage in people trading which is unconscionable and morally wrong under any circumstances, even if it achieved its aim of “stopping the boats”.  It cannot guarantee that those sent to Malaysia prompt and transparent processing of their claims for protection; it cannot guarantee that they will have access to work, education, health care or welfare; and it cannot guarantee their physical safety while awaiting a determination.

The Opposition’s proposal to resurrect “the Pacific solution” with the cooperation of the Government of Nauru fails the same human dignity test.  When this measure was employed by the Howard Government, it resulted in asylum seekers languishing on Nauru for years awaiting a determination and, when that determination was finally made, the vast majority of asylum seekers were found to be bona fide refugees who were resettled in Australia.  Many needed immediate and substantial medical treatment for the psychological traumatisation caused by their prolonged detention.

Offshore processing of refugee claims, whether in Malaysia, Nauru or Papua New Guinea has been instigated by successive Australian Governments as a means of thwarting so-called people smugglers.  There is no doubt that the exploitation of the misery and desperation of asylum seekers by people smugglers is abominable, but subjecting asylum seekers to harsh and inhumane treatment as a means of countering people smuggling is reprehensible as it only compounds the suffering and injustice asylum seekers endure.

While the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat in recent years is higher than in the past, they are still very small compared with those seeking asylum in other countries.

As a wealthy nation and as a signatory to the Refugee Convention, Australia has the capacity and the responsibility to process and resettle the number of asylum seekers currently arriving on our shores. 

It is appalling that our political leaders would rather enlist developing nations which already have many asylum seekers within their borders to deal with those who come to our shores than to directly process their claims here in Australia as is our obligation under the Refugee Convention.

It is also deplorable that we insist on detaining asylum seekers in remote facilities for long periods at enormous financial expense to the country and at great expense to the mental and physical welfare of asylum seekers.  It is time that both major parties adopted other less harmful and expensive means of processing claims for protection promptly in Australia.

There are hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in our region.  Most of them wait for many years in pitiful conditions for their refugee claims to be determined and to be resettled.  Our political leaders should devote much more of their energy to working with all the countries in our region with large numbers of asylum seekers, countries which re-settle refugees, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and non-government organisations working in the region to improve the standard of accommodation and support for asylum seekers, to improve and expedite the processing of refugee claims and to re-settle refugees more efficiently and promptly.  Such a regional focus will offer hope to the large numbers of people seeking protection in the Asia/Pacific region.  At the same time, it will offer Australia a framework within which it can seek assistance to deal with specifically Australian refugee issues without resorting to inhumane approaches.

Australia must fulfil its obligations in full as a signatory to the Refugee Convention; it should only do deals with countries which are signatories to the Convention; and it should actively work for a genuine regional framework for the processing of refugee claims and the resettlement of refugees.

The Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission will make our concerns known to the Federal Government and the Opposition, to all the Members of Parliament in our Archdiocese and to all Queensland’s Senators.  The Commission urges Catholics, our Christian sisters and brothers and all people who support the values informing the Refugee Convention to join with us in rejecting the crass and unseemly politicking which worsens the pain and injustice endured by asylum seekers and refugees and the racial and religious intolerance to which it panders.

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.
 

Solidarity with South Sudan

Map of Southern SudanThe Sudanese Bishops at their last meeting in Jubathis May have outlined a program and prayer in the lead-up to becoming the world’s newest nation on July 9th.

The campaign is launched on Saturday May 28th with Eucharistic processions. The next day Sunday 29th becomes a Day of Reconciliation as described

“Preaching on reconciliation at all levels social, political and religious. Reconciliation among tribes – mending differences through traditional and religious reconciliation rituals and symbols”.

 On Pentecost Day there will be blessing and planting of trees as symbols of new birth. Dioceses, families, institutions, school, and parishes will be encouraged to plant a tree.

Some trees will produce medicine, a sign of healing from trauma and war. Other trees will give fruit as signs of hope and promise.

On June 29th a novena will focus on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Please join them in your prayer. There have been some violent incidents in the border areas over the past 5 months. They pray for peace, courage and hope.

Parishes, schools, agencies and households are invited to pray for them in their times of prayer and in their Eucharistic prayers of the faithful.  The set prayer below may be helpful for those wishing to incorporate prayer for Sudan into their times of prayer.

Prayer for the Republic of South Sudan

God of Mercies, we thank you for your great love for us.

We ask you to guide our leaders in the process of nation building.

Grant them wisdom, compassion and fortitude.

Loving God, give us courage to reject ethnic resentment

as well as ethnic conflicts.

Through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, help us

to overcome hurt, hostility and bitterness in our hearts

so that we become reconciled citizens in our new nation.

Renew in us the will for honest and hard work,

and bring us closer to you in the spirit of service,

unity and lasting peace.

Lord, we pray for our heroes, our martyrs and all innocent people

who died during the long years of war.

 We pray in thanksgiving for all those who stood by us

in solidarity to bring about peace.

 Unite us from every tribe, tongue and people.

Send your Holy Spirit upon us and may your will be done in us.

 God bless our new nation;

Bless theRepublic of South Sudan.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Monday 21 March 2011

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Federal Government to abandon policies which detain asylum seekers and refugees in remote locations for prolonged periods.

The call was made following recent protests and violent incidents in a number of the Government’s immigration detention centres.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Government’s policies are adding to the suffering of deeply traumatised people and contributing to a grave injustice.

 

“The Government’s insistence on detaining asylum seekers in remote, overcrowded locations for prolonged periods is simply outrageous,” Mr Arndt said.

 

“These are people who have suffered much before they get here and, when they arrive here to seek protection, they are subjected to prolonged and harsh treatment which can only add to their stress and anxiety,” he said.

 

“The Government’s requirement that people who have been accepted as refugees must wait for long periods in these dreadful detention centres for ASIO security clearances is a totally unnecessary further impost,” he said.

 

“If we are happy to let tourists and students come into our country without locking them up awaiting a security clearance, why can’t we let these genuine refugees out into the community while these clearances are sought?” he said.

 

“Is it any wonder that people who are already mentally fragile and stressed react to this seriously unjust processing regime with protests and riots?” he said.

 

“Add to this the fact that there are still many children locked up in these centres exposed to all this anger and violence and you have an appalling state of affairs,” he said.

 

“The last thing we need is detention centre staff and police using force to respond to the frustration and anger of detained refugees,” he said.

 

“The people locked up in these centres have only exercised their right to seek protection from persecution and what they have been subjected to in return is a deplorable abuse of their human rights,” he said.

 

“The Government’s policies are to blame for what has happened on Christmas Island, at Curtin and Weipa, not the refugees,” he said.

 

“The Government is subjecting asylum seekers and refugees to the prolonged, mandatory detention which it said it would end even though it knows this causes more mental stress and anguish for asylum seekers,” he said.

 

“We urge the Government to stop using and building detention centres in remote areas, to stop detaining mentally fragile and traumatised people for prolonged periods, to stop the use of violence to deal with detainees’ frustrations and complaints and to stop detaining children in these centres,” he said.

 

“Justice demands that the claims of asylum seekers be processed speedily and in accordance with the provisions of all the international human rights conventions and that all claimants be treated with respect and dignity while their claims are processed,” he said.

 

“This is not happening in Australia now and it must stop,” 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.

 

Commission to Support Parish Responses to Statement on Violence

Social Justice Sunday 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission will seek to help parishes to respond to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s 2010 Social Justice Sunday Statement, Violence in Australia: A Message of Peace.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the violence which is becoming so common in communities across the country needs to be challenged with Christ’s radical message of peace.

“The Bishops’ Statement encourages us as Christians to focus on the many forms of violence in contemporary Australia, to understand the causes and to take action in the spirit of Jesus’ teaching,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Bishops’ Statement presents us with a whole series of questions to help us to consider how we might become messengers of peace in our families, our communities, our nation and our world,” he said.

Mr Arndt is currently holding meetings in the deaneries of the Archdiocese to help Catholics to explore the issues and insights contained in the Statement and to provide information on what resources are available to promote and use the Statement.

The Justice and Peace Commission is also currently discussing possible collaboration with the Franciscan organisation, Pace e Bene, in order to offer Catholics concrete opportunities to develop skills for living nonviolently.

“We are aware of the many faces of violence in Australia from bullying in schools, violent video games, domestic violence and road rage to the so-called structural violence of poverty and racism,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Bishops ask us to do more than shake our heads at the growing presence of violence in our country and to take up the challenge to be active in making peace in our hearts, our homes, our communities and our nation,” 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

2010 Social Justice Statement: Sample Editorial for Parish Use

2010 Social Justice Statement Summary

2010 Social Justice Sunday  Powerpoint Slide

2010 Social Justice Statement OHT