Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Fostering a spirit of welcome

This Refugee Week from 14-20 June, Australians are encouraged to help make Australia a more welcoming place for refugees and asylum seekers with the theme “Celebrating the Year of Welcome.”

During the week, the Assembly Working for Justice Circle is hosting a conversation with a person, who is a member of Bankstown Uniting Church in Western Sydney. This person will share the experience of coming to Australia seeking protection and safety.

UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer said this Refugee Week, in the context of COVID-19 and the growing momentum of the Black Lives movement, highlighted the need for us to work harder to combat all forms of racism and inequality in Australia.

“For many refugees and asylum seekers, the experience of racism and inequality is not new, it has been part of their lived reality, both in their home country and sadly, also here in Australia.”

“As Christians, we believe that all people are created in God’s image and all people should have the opportunity to enjoy God’s gift of abundant life.”

“Our life in Christ calls us to create communities that are characterised by love for one another, and of welcome and inclusion.”

In recent times, the impact of COVID-19, has meant new levels of desperation for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia who have faced even greater levels of hardship and destitution.

One service provider, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, has experienced a 224 per cent increase in demand since 1 April and is currently providing emergency food relief to more than 600 people each week.

As well as food insecurity and the inability to meet rent payments, there has been a spike in mental health concerns with the pandemic leaving so many unable to work. Charities providing emergency accommodation say they're being stretched to breaking point.

The Uniting Church joined with a number or organisations in calling for a financial safety net and access to Medicare to be extended to already vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees living in Australia. Thankfully, a number of States have provided some relief funding to support temporary visa holders, but the impact of the pandemic is likely to extend for many months ahead and more is needed.

More broadly, the Uniting Church has called for pathways to permanent protection for asylum seekers as well as an end to indefinite mandatory detention and a fair and timely process for accessing claims for protection. Read more in our justice Vision Statement 

One thing you can do this Refugee Week is call or write to your MP to express your concern for refugees and asylum seekers in our community.

You might also like to take the opportunity to listen and learn from refugees who will be sharing their stories and perspectives.

Here are a number of ways you might like to get involved:

  • Listen in to the Working for Justice Circle Conversation with a person seeking asylum on our Facebook page.
  • Join one of the many Refugee Week events taking place online this year
  • Watch, listen or share some of the suggested films, podcasts, poems, videos, songs on the Refugee Week resources page
  • Join the Refugee Council of Australia community dinner project, Share a Meal, Share a Story
  • Share a message of support on your social media account – use any of the hashtags #RefugeeWeek2020 #justice4refugees #NobodyLeftBehind #GameOver
  • Call or speak to your MP about extending the safety net and Medicare benefits to refugees and asylum seekers impacted by COVID-19
  • Find out from your Synod ho you can be more involved.