The most effective way to welcome asylum seekers and refugees is to offer time, respect and friendship. This was the core message at “Putting Rungs in the Ladder – Advent Twilight Reflection Evening on the 10 December 2014 at the new home of Bishop Comensoli, Caroline Chisholm Centre of the Broken Bay Diocese. The joint initiative of the justice and peace arms of the Broken Bay and Parramatta dioceses and the Archdiocese of Sydney gathered people from across Sydney to reflect, discuss and pray for those desperately seeking refuge in Sydney.
People were invited to reflect on the plight of asylum seekers especially those who sought security and safety from their conflict-ridden countries. Cathy Butler of St Ives Parish, Annmarie from the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and Jo Hill of the House of Welcome told stories of hope and love through community activities and sports including inspirational reflections from a group who started a cricket team of Tamil asylum seekers. The organisers facilitated small group discussions to encourage action for people to bring back to their parish communities. Their plans were offered in a solemn reflection following the discussions, as volunteers read the prayers of the faithful calling for unity and mercy.
The event coincided with the passing of the new legislation giving government unprecedented and unchallengeable power to deal with asylum seekers, including the power to send boats entering Australia waters back into sea. Australia no longer has to adhere to the UN Refugee Convention. In a media release by the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Director, Fr Maurizio Pettenà has called the new laws “unethical” and stated that the reintroduction of the Temporary Visa will not provide a pathway to permanency nor allow family reunification meaning asylum seekers’ lives will remain in a state of insecurity and anxiety.
Despite the announcement of the new laws, Putting Rungs in the Ladder was an opportunity to be reminded of God’s mercy and compassion.