Monday, 15 April 2019

Thousands march to say Yes to Refugees

Uniting Church members joined thousands marching in parks and streets across Australia for the annual Palm Sunday rallies.

People from all walks of life came together to show their concern and send a message that Australia must do better for refugees and people seeking asylum.

The marches follow the recent passing of the Medivac legislation which allows sick refugees in offshore detention to be sent to Australia for medical treatment. The push for the bill was a response to the dire mental health crisis on Manus and Nauru.

With the Federal election approaching, the rallies focused on the continued suffering of those in indefinite detention as well as the unfair treatment of people seeking asylum living in Australia.

At the rally in Melbourne, Richard Flanagan addressed the crowd. He spoke about how all Australians must take responsibility for ending the oppression of people seeking asylum.

All Australians, he said, were tainted by the racism underlying Australia’s approach to border security and immigration over the past two decades.

“To rob one human of freedom demands that we must rob another, or the crime becomes too obvious,” he said. “That is why to falsely imprison one human for no crime is a scandal while to kidnap and falsely imprison thousands for no crime is called a national necessity.”

He spoke about his sense of a change toward a more compassionate approach.

“We are optimistic about a country built on openness. We are hopeful about the recognition that strength resides in the willingness to help the weakest.”

In Sydney, Australian medical students led the march representing the many doctors and nurses who have spoken against the offshore detention. 

Retired UCA Minister Rev. John Barr addressed the crowd as Vice President of the NSW Ecumenical Council.

“A teaching on my faith and indeed the faith of many people around the world is that we must never neglect, exploit, oppress or marginalise those who are newcomers in our community,” he told the crowd.

“We must never stigmatise, vilify or cast a slur among the foreigners in our midst. Rather we are to embrace, we are to accept and we are to love the newcomer as one of our own.”

UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer joined those present in Adelaide’s Victoria Square.

One of the speakers was Uniting Church Deacon Rev Sandy Boyce who is Chair of Justice for Refugees in South Australia.

The recently released vision statement and election resource, Our Vision for a Just Australia, includes a number of actions key toward a more compassionate response for those seeking safety in Australia.

These include;

  1. An end to the policy of indefinite, mandatory detention for people seeking asylum, starting with an end to offshore processing.
  2. Adults and children seeking asylum can live in the Australian community with access to essential services, while their refugee status is processed in a timely manner.
  3. Those found to be refugees are granted permanent protection so they can begin to rebuild their lives and contribute to Australian society.

Read the full Statement and the section A Welcoming, Compassionate and Diverse Nation.

See photos from Palm Sunday events around the country.