Refugee Week 19-25 June: A call to prayer

09 Jun 2022

By Contributor

By Ali Biddiscombe

“Australia has a moral obligation to resolve the asylum-seeker crisis so that people who are fleeing from violence or poverty are treated justly and humanely. This means ensuring their claims are assessed quickly and that people found to be refugees are resettled in Australia or in an equivalent country without delay.”

– Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission, and Service

An online and live-streamed prayer service will be hosted by the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace.

The prayer service, on Monday, 20 June via a Zoom link, provides a pathway to engage in Refugee Week and learn more on the Church’s teaching regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

Deacon Greg Lowe from the West Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office said the prayer service was a good opportunity to be informed about the reality of seeking asylum.

The theme for Refugee Week 2022 is healing. As the Refugee Council of Australia states, “healing can occur through storytelling, through community and also through realisation of our intrinsic interconnectedness as individuals”.

The online prayer service will engage these elements by gathering the Catholic community, telling stories through the medium of video, and praying together as sisters and brothers in Christ. The service will be recorded, and the video made available for further use.

A brief explanation of Catholic teaching on refugees and asylum seekers is offered via online and printable formats by the co-hosts.

The resources include links to Church documents that encourage and provide guidance for pastoral action to welcome, protect, integrate and promote migrants and refugees, as well as the prayer that accompanies Pope Francis’ Message for Migrant and Refugee Sunday 2022.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission, and Service, said people could also consider visiting an immigration detention centre or detention hotel during the week to pray for asylum seekers.

Other suggestions include hosting an afternoon tea and inviting people who are seeking asylum and living in the community to pray with you for a just, humane and timely system for assessing claims for asylum.

Registration to attend the prayer service to be broadcast live at 6pm AEST on 20 June is now open. The two offices have combined to produce resources encouraging the celebration of Refugee Week.

Register to join the online prayer service on Zoom: https://bit.ly/RefugeeWeek2022Prayers.

For a full statement and information and to find out about local events, go to: https://socialjustice.catholic.org.au/2022/05/23/refugee-week-prayer-service/.

Interfaith leaders call for a better future for Temporary Protection Visa holders

In May, a group of interfaith leaders also gathered at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, calling for a fair and compassionate way for Australia to welcome refugees.

The group issued a statement to political leaders across the spectrum to deliver a better future for Temporary Protection Visa holders, many of whom, they said, have worked hard to make Australia their home yet are not recognised as residents of our country.

Their actions culminated in a statement signed by many faith leaders from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh faiths, and shared prayers recognising the plight of these people.

Bishop Philip Huggins, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, said the call to action to faith communities is Australia-wide and parishioners across the Perth Archdiocese can lend their voices to this message.

“My prayer is for healing of trauma. I have been blessed to meet many refugees and asylum seekers over 40 years. Their courage, their vulnerability, and their willingness to begin again: people who come here seeking refuge and asylum bring with them trauma of having to flee from their own homes. It takes a long time to heal from trauma. It takes a lot of care and a supportive community,” Bishop Huggins said.

The full statement and messages from participants can be viewed at: https://www.welcomerefugees.info/faithstatement.

Asylum seekers welcomed in New Zealand

In a statement which welcomed the former Federal Government’s decision in March this year to resettle up to 450 asylum seekers in New Zealand, Bishop Long said hundreds more people needed to be offered a pathway out of detention.

“The Catholic community continues to support and pray for all refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and in offshore detention,” Bishop Long said.

“We ask for an end to indefinite detention and for pathways to permanent visas for all those who are determined to be refugees or who meet humanitarian criteria.”

Bishop Long said the Church, which plays a significant role in welcoming and assisting refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, continues to call for a larger humanitarian intake “so that an appropriate response can be made to those who are fleeing conflict and violence in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Syria, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Yemen and Venezuela”.

The Australian representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated there are more than 1200 refugees and asylum seekers in Australia or Nauru. That means not all will be able to resettle in New Zealand.

“Australia has a moral obligation to resolve the asylum-seeker crisis so that people who are fleeing from violence or poverty are treated justly and humanely,” he said.

“This means ensuring their claims are assessed quickly and that people found to be refugees are resettled in Australia or in an equivalent country without delay.”

Earlier in the year, Bishop Long estimated that at least 20,000 more humanitarian places are needed, just for those fleeing Afghanistan.

“We need to scale up our practical compassion, not simply adjust priorities within existing plans.

“That is why the bishops, together with other members of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and many other community groups, call once more for the allocation of at least 20,000 additional places.”