‘We have a dream….” And in late August on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s most famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, Baptist Care Australia wrote in the Weekend Australian newspaper, about the need to stop using asylum seekers as political pawns. Like Martin Luther King, ours is a dream of a fair and ethical society, providing generously for the most vulnerable including asylum seekers.
When did we, as a society let justice escape us and be reduced to bickering and bargaining over rights? When did we start to let others tell us what to be frightened of and who? Our Christian faith tells us that the fruits of the Spirit, including generosity and compassion, are the foundation for a vibrant and healthy civil society. When we deny compassion, blame others for their circumstances, avoid responsibility and turn our backs on those in need, we have clearly lost our moral compass. It is a bitter harvest we will reap.
The drive to brand asylum seekers as economic migrants trying to take advantage of our good nature and then to propose that the hard line on asylum seekers is ‘in their best interest’, is unacceptable propaganda to us as a faith based community. Our role is to advocate for those unable to speak for themselves.
As I watch the stories on the news in recent days about the boats still setting out filled with asylum seekers; more people drowning and the flow of human misery being compounded by our failing refugee and asylum systems, we must find a more humane way to work with this issue.
And what surprised me was the response to the open letter. Some letters and messages of support were received, but also some very strong letters of judgement, rejection and fear of the ‘other’; and the demand that we build our fences so high that no-one can get in, particularly anyone who is different to ‘us’ in Australia who might use our resources and, God forbid, be given something that they don’t deserve. It is sad indictment that this is the best that we can do for those seeking our help.
Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris, CEO