A CAPSA Christmas message – Fr Andy Hamilton SJ
The public mood at Christmas this year is one of uncertainty. The catastrophic floods have demonstrated the effects of climate change. The Ukraine invasion and tension with China have illustrated the dangers of war. COVID continues to remind us how precarious is our public health. More immediately, we face a year of rising prices and interest rates and their threat to housing.
The effects of all these things will fall most heavily on people less able to bear them. They include people who seek protection. International conflicts make refugees. In developed nations like Australia local hardships can make us less ready to welcome refugees.
The stories of Jesus’ birth speak to us in hard times. They are stories of a world that is a gift, of a God who is love, of political chaos and disruption that do not have the last word, of a woman forced to walk for many days to register for taxation, unable to find shelter to give birth and forced to go into the fields to give birth, of a baby forced into exile by a murderous king, of foreigners and shepherds who are more attentive than the local experts, of a paddock lean-to that will become remembered longer than a king’s palace. They are stories about laughter breaking through tears and pain, about hope that survives loss.
This Christmas we celebrate the courage and rich humanity that refugees and people seeking asylum have also shown in the face of suffering and exclusion. We pray that they find humanity and compassion in the nations from which they seek protection. In Australia we pray that our relatively new Government may systematically dismantle the cruel structures designed to deter people from seeking protection from us. We keep in our minds and hearts especially people on temporary protection visas that leave them uncertain, anxious and unable to plan their lives.
In a time of uncertainty at so many levels people who act generously and compassionately encourage us to live boldly. We find that in the Gospel stories of Jesus’ birth and in the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum, and those who accompany them.