Some of the bluntest lines spoken during refugee week came from Pope Francis. Speaking to the crowd in St Peter’s Square during Refugee Week, he noted the increasing number of people who are displaced inside their own nations or have fled from war and persecution across borders, and the way in which so many nations repel them or mistreat them when they come. The Pope responded,
‘It is my hope that the international community should act in a fitting and effective way to prevent the causes of forced migration’.
Later in his talk he spoke of people who were hostile to refugees,
‘I invite everyone to ask forgiveness for those persons and institutions that close the doors on these people who are searching for family, that are searching for safety’.
Most Australians would scratch their heads with incomprehension at Pope Francis’ words. With the approval of most Australians the Government has one thought, one mantra. It is ‘Stop the boats’ at any cost. Daily the cost is being revealed – money paid to people smugglers to persuade them to return to Indonesia, sexual abuse of people seeking protection and sent to Nauru, impunity for guards in detention centres, loss of reputation in Indonesia and elsewhere.
The Pope asked Catholics to pray for refugees and to pray for forgiveness for us as a nation and for our rulers. Prayer for forgiveness is always a gracious thing.
But if we are unhappy with what is being done in our name, there are always other small things we can do. The Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Protection (CAPSA) brings together people who ask what they can do to help refugees with other people who have discovered ways of acting. Some share what they have been doing in their parishes, visiting people seeking asylum, and speaking up for refugees. Others are looking for volunteers or resources for their programs.
– Andy Hamilton SJ