Detention For Detention at Parade
FRIDAY 9th SEPTEMBER
Dealing with controversial political issues is always a challenge for a school. If we take a strong stance on an issue, we can easily be accused of bias, and of attempting to exert undue influence on students to adopt a particular ideological standpoint. Such indoctrination is the antithesis of quality education – so the argument goes. It has to be said that such criticism is legitimate and valid. But, this is not what we are attempting to do here at Parade. We do not wish to peddle any ideology or support a particular party political perspective; what we are attempting to do is teach our young men to be humane and compassionate. This, after all, lies at the core of our Christian vision. A Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition is about communicating with our students in the deepest and broadest sense. If we can help the human heart to love, to develop a heightened sense for the common good, and the common humanity shared by all, then we have succeeded in delivering the very highest and truest form of education. What we wish to do too is peel back all the layers of misinformation and propaganda that students are exposed to in the popular media, and unveil the human stories that lie behind and beyond the antagonistic political fisticuffs to which we have become accustomed over recent years.
On Thursday 8th September, a group of passionate advocacy students and teachers stood in silence as we heard the story of Omar Al Kassab who was imprisoned and tortured by the Syrian regime. It was a horrific and sobering tale, and I would hazard to surmise that all of us present were thinking the same thing – we too would try to seek asylum someplace else if we were we in his shoes; if we had to endure what he endured.
Yes, Omar is just one refugee. But while he may be the one, he is also the many. He is representative of a whole nation that has been devastated by war. When such people cry out for help, we simply cannot look the other way. We have an obligation to ease their trauma and their sense of loss and displacement – we should not do anything that would exacerbate their traumatic experience of grief and loss. The fundamental moral law that has been with us for thousands of years still applies: we ought not to do to any human being what we would not want done to ourselves.
On Thursday, September 8, about sixty staff and students said a very public “No” to the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers – just as Pope Francis did recently on the island of Lesbos in Greece. This stance is in keeping with the messages of Pope Francis and recently of Bishop Long. In this year of mercy we are called to greater mercy, greater compassion, to welcome the stranger, to share what we have for the common good. Our founding congregation, our school and our church have a long and proud history of standing with those who are marginalised and in welcoming and offering ‘shelter’ to those in need. We will not change from this course – no matter which populist social climate change we have to encounter.
Parade College, VIC