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Tuesday, 16 August 2016 22:52

Shining the light in dark places

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Sr Ruth Durick osu 150If we have learnt anything as a society in recent years, surely we have learnt the evil of secrecy and how it is used to cover up behaviours which, in the open, would be completely unacceptable, writes CRA President Sister Ruth Durick osu.

The week of 22nd – 28th August is set aside as Migrant and Refugee week. There are many religious in Australia who are actively working for more humane policies in relation to our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Last week the Jesuit Refugee Service made the following plea to the Prime Minister for moral and political leadership: "by immediately closing the offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. JRS endorses the renewed call by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) for the Australian government to move without delay all refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru to “humane conditions with adequate support and services”.

This week the Sisters of Saint Joseph are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their foundation by holding the Running Jump conference, a major topic of which is our treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. In the outline of this conference the Sisters call us to radical choices in the following way:

Today.., we are faced with radical choices – any of which promises to make tomorrow look nothing like yesterday. An unknown future, with all its perils and excitement, calls us. We are truly in ‘jump time’, when fundamental ways of being, knowing, relating and believing are transforming every aspect of life as we know it. The questions are many. Are we prepared to risk a running jump? In what direction? Who might join us? Who might challenge us? How can we bring about change?

In my own Ursuline tradition, our foundress Angela Merici urges us to "consider the respect you owe them, for the more you respect them, the more you will love them. The more you love them, the more you will care for them.”

Can we urge our brothers and sisters wherever and whoever they are to consider deeply in the light of the Gospel our current treatment of people in offshore detention centres? If we have learnt anything as a society in recent years, surely we have learnt the evil of secrecy and how it is used to cover up behaviours which, in the open, would be completely unacceptable. If we are kept from seeing asylum seekers as our brothers and sisters – and surely this is the main reason for the secrecy surrounding their detention - we will never know the true evils visited upon them in the name of our nation and because of fear of the other. While it is true that there are no more deaths at sea because the boats have stopped, are we prepared to flout our human responsibilities, much less our Christian call to love our neighbour and welcome the stranger? Can we open our doors and our hearts to the One who comes to us, incarnate, in the poor, the stateless and the persecuted?

Pope Francis urges us to rise to the challenge of today’s migrations, to give a response which is the Gospel of Mercy. He further adds that indifference and silence lead to complicity. As people of the gospel, let us shine light in dark places and speak truth with love.