Jessica Brown | Diocese of Broken Bay
Broken Bay parishioners may have noticed these words boldly standing out on their own Church notice boards of late. They are certainly eye catching … But what exactly do these words mean? And why is it such an important and vital message to share?
The Australian government’s latest statistics as of 31 January 2016 revealed that:
- 54 children are held in Australian funded detention facilities in Nauru.
- 88 children are held in detention facilities on the Australian mainland.
- 293 children in community detention on the Australian mainland.
Children Out of Immigration Detention (http://www.chilout.org/)
‘Let Them Stay’ is advocating that detention is no place for children and people seeking asylum to be staying. Many Australians hope that arbitrary and prolonged detention for families seeking asylum in Australia will be ended.
‘Let Them Stay’ is a statement expressing concern for the detrimental effect that onshore and offshore detention has on people especially children. Organisations such as ChilOut (Children out of Immigration Detention) believe that “every child deserves to be free and have the right to play, learn, be healthy and grow up in a safe environment, regardless of how they arrive in Australia.”
It is important to clarify the language used in this humanitarian discussion, as there is often confusion and misuse of terms such as ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’.
The Refugee Council of Australia (2016) defines a refugee as: “Any person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.”
Asylum seekers are “people who have applied for protection as a refugee, but whose claims have not yet been recognised by a government. However, since recognition by a government is not required to meet the definition of a refugee, an asylum seeker may also be at the same time a refugee. Most refugees will have sought asylum at some point.”
Exploring these definitions can clarify confusion and highlight the fact that there is nothing illegal about either of these status’ despite messages often expressed through mainstream media.
Pope Francis in his statement for the world day of migrants and refugees this year relayed his concern that “Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck.” He goes on to further state that: “God’s fatherly care extends to everyone, like the care of a shepherd for his flock, but is particularly concerned for the needs of the sheep who are wounded, weary or ill.” Pope Francis is urging us to “welcome the stranger” because “in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself.”
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office is an organisation involved in this call to action and is a great place to source more information and statements from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Familiarising ourselves with the Australian Catholic Church teachings on issues of asylum and migration can help foster greater understanding and better enable us to “prevent unwarranted fears and speculations“ which are described as detrimental by Pope Francis himself.
It’s therefore moving to see Pope Francis’ sentiment echoed on our own parish notice boards. ‘Let them stay’ is visible on at least six parish notice boards within our Diocese. These faith communities have united in their stand against the inhumane treatment of their fellow human beings and are certainly adding towards Pope Francis’ efforts to “overcome complicity.”