CAPSA Newsletter December 2021

Dear CAPSA Community,

Who better to capture our Christmas message to you than Andrew Hamilton SJ, a long-time friend and supporter of CAPSA.

We hope that the coming summer and holiday period is one of rest and rejuvenation for all of you.

In peace and solidarity,

The CAPSA Team

A Christmas message from CAPSA written by Andrew Hamilton SJ

At a time when we are lurching towards the end of the year, to organise Christmas, buy presents and perhaps prepare for a holiday, refugees might be the last thing on our mind. Yet Christmas and refugees belong together.

The Gospel stories of Jesus’ birth describe the inner life of refugees. In Matthew’s Gospel Mary, Joseph and Jesus have to leave home abruptly because Herod has sent soldiers to kill Jesus and other children of his age. He sees him as a threat to his throne. They must live as refugees in Egypt awaiting a time when they can return home safely. Their story of terror on the way and humiliation wherever they stay, will be all too familiar to millions of refugees. This year we remember especially those who are trapped in Afghanistan or awaiting permanent protection in Australia. As a wealthy nation we can provide a home to people who worked for us in Afghanistan and for close relatives of people living in Australia.

In Luke’s Gospel the Roman authorities forced Jewish families, including Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary, with other people to leave their home in Nazareth and travel into the hill country at Bethlehem for tax registration. They could find no place to stay there, and Mary was forced to give birth to Jesus in a field. We can imagine them listening to the music and bustle in the town from which they are excluded. The scene might bring to mind the many people brought to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island because of ill-health. Now they are locked up indefinitely in an inner-city hotel tortured by the sight of people living ordinary and free lives on the streets outside.

In the stories of both Luke and Matthew, Jesus and his parents are identified with the little people who do it hard in the world. The larger story of the Gospels is about God’s solidarity with people who are put upon. It describes a God who loves the world and each person in it deeply enough to want to join us. God shares all the beauty and joy of human life, but also all the griefs and weaknesses, including imprisonment and execution. The God of the Gospels sees a need, reaches out in compassion to those who suffer, and acts to change their situation.

Christmas is rightly about sharing the joys of family, of friendship and of celebration. It is also about keeping in our mind and hearts people who are deprived of these gifts.

We at CAPSA wish you and your families a Christmas that deepens friendships, gives joy to family life and enlarges compassion. We thank you for your own compassion for refugees and people who seek asylum throughout 2021. Let us all stand with them in solidarity in 2022.

If you’re interested in how you can practically assist refugees and people seeking asylum over the holiday period, please consider donating your money or time to a local organisation in your community or city who are supporting refugees and people seeking asylum.

Other news and updates

  • Jesuit Refugee Service Australia have recently released a report, titled: A Place to Call Home: A Report on the Experiences of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion among People Seeking Asylum in Greater Sydney. Through detailed interviews, this important research highlights the high levels of homelessness and severe housing insecurity faced by people seeking asylum. Although this report was specific to Greater Sydney, it can be assumed that this is an issue faced by many people seeking asylum and on temporary protection across Australia.

  • Pope Francis visited the Mavrovouni refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last week and warned against the plight of refugees being used as ‘political propaganda’. He said that ‘it is easy to stir up public opinion by instilling fear in others’. As we know, this is a political game that is well-practiced in Australia to the detriment of hundreds of refugees and people seeking asylum.

  • As Australian offshore immigration detention ends on Papua New Guinea, many men left behind remain uncertain about their future. Seven of these men are now on their way to Canada to be resettled after 8 years held in offshore detention by the Australian Government. These resettlement opportunities are possible because of Canada’s allowance for the private sponsorship of refugees. The #Operation Not Forgotten campaign has helped to facilitate these sponsorships and is run in collaboration by the Refugee Council of Australia, MOSAIC (Canada) and Ads Up Canada Refugee Network (Canada).