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RE-cycled: Compassion for Asylum Seekers

Jim Finlayson, RE Teacher at Aquinas College  |  03 March 2016

A Year 10 Creative Writing class at Aquinas College, Ringwood, VIC was inspired to write about refugees and asylum seekers as a result of the visual display in our Forum. As you can see by the photo, we have a display featuring a picture of asylum seekers behind bars in both Middle and Senior Years. Students helped to make these displays in their response to how we treat asylum seekers. We hope to generate discussion among the students about why people become asylum seekers and how they can be treated in a just and a fair way. Each student chose a different voice to try to capture the situation.

'I wonder what it’s like to be punished for being innocent.' - Adam

'As a nation that is commonly known as multicultural, it is appalling that our government has turned against the law and decent humanity, by sending asylum seekers (who have the legal right to seek asylum) to detention centres on foreign islands. ' - Olivia

'I know I should be forever thankful but right now sitting behind these rusted bars with time markings, I couldn’t feel more hopeless.' - Alannah

'The door clicked, I was officially marginalised from my whole life. Years had passed and I knew that I wasn’t getting out of this hell hole soo. Days grew into months which turned into years, the thoughts of my children were now my only motivation to keep me going. The screeching of chalk on the dry concrete walls made my ears scream, as I knew the days were passing and I was still trapped. I always wanted to be there for my kids’ birthdays and their first steps, but I guess I won’t get to witness those milestones.' - Lachlan

'Walls are crumbling all around me. My hands are smothered in dirt and dust. My heart is constantly being tugged like the rope in a game of tug-of-war.' - Josh

'Bombs are exploding left, right and centre. I’m hearing hysterical babies coming from under cars and roofs that have flown off houses. This breaks my heart. I wish I could change the world and make all these innocent people safe and full of joy, but unfortunately our world screams discrimination and at the moment I have to worry about myself.' - Livy 

Project Compassion celebrates its fiftieth year in 2016 with the official theme of ‘Learning more and creating change'. This fits in with the Religious Education Department’s aim to raise students’ awareness of the many issues faced by asylum seekers in the world today and particularly our response as Christians in Australia.

There is 101 reasons why people become asylum seekers and there are many different ways we can care for them.

A quote from the magazine Justice, put out by the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, with the bold headline ‘The Cruelty Must Stop’:

The Australian Catholic Bishops have renewed their call on the Australian Government to stop treating asylum seekers and refugees with cruelty, harshness and injustice.

The Bishops say that no child should be detained solely on the basis of their immigration status and affirm that all children are entitled to a healthy family life with the support and nurturing of their parents.

We can all acknowledge there are different viewpoints on the issue of people coming to Australia and the public debate on how they are treated is an important one. Some countries in Europe allow low risk asylum seekers and refugees to live in their community under the care of social groups, e.g. a Catholic parish may take responsibility for one or two families while their paperwork is sorted out by the government. As this can often take up to two to three years, allowing them to live in the community saves them from incarceration in a detention camp that can have major psychological damage. There needs to be a better way to treat people with dignity and respect who are fleeing awful situations. Remember, the bars these people are behind are Australian bars. Just think: What would do if you were one of the people in our detention centres? 

The fishing people who live on the Island of Lesbos and other small islands near Turkey and Syria have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for risking their lives many times going out to sea to rescue fleeing refugees from sinking boats. Would we be prepared to do this for people we do not know?

Please join us at 2pm on Palm Sunday (20th March) at the State Library in Melbourne to march for the injustices that face asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.



Topic tags: australianidentity, politicsandreligion, refugees, socialjustice–global, catholicsocialteaching

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