In the lead-up to the Federal Election, the harsh asylum seeker policies from both the Government and the Opposition do not seem to be inspired by what should be central to any such policy: respect for the dignity and rights of every person; and the duty of care we should all have for our fellow human beings, many of whom in desperation ask for our welcome and assistance.
The sheer number of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries, oppressive dictatorships, persecution and malnutrition, raises huge social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems while posing dramatic challenges to the international community.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, prior to his retirement, pointed out that every country has the right to enact migration policies dictated by the common good, though always respecting the dignity of each person. In addition, Pope Francis challenges what he calls a “globalisation of indifference” where we seem to have lost any sense of responsibility for our fellow human beings.
Pope Francis said “We have become so accustomed to the suffering of others that it no longer concerns us; it is none of our business.”
My fear is that taking such a tough stand on asylum seekers can make us Australians become more indifferent to their plight.
I call on our political leaders to make this a bipartisan issue so that, as a nation, we may work together to devise ways to deal with the unscrupulous people-smugglers, while facing up to the forgotten issue of the human dignity of refugees.
An alternative way to prevent tragedies at sea would be to process and accept more refugees in source countries, providing them with the possibility and hope of reaching Australia through a regular legal pathway.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
BISHOP OF WOLLONGONG
29 August 2013