How we are finding hope this Refugee Week
16 June 2016
For people seeking protection from persecution, 2016 has been a bad year. In many parts of the world, including Australia, they have been seen as problems, not as persons with problems. They are derided as a threat to borders, as a cost on the economy, as a blight on a culture, as a dangerous mob. When they are invited to see the individual faces of refugees and to hear their stories, many people turn away. They don’t want to know.
In an Election campaign, with which Refugee Week coincides this year, politicians are tempted to appeal to fear and prejudice in order to win votes. So the silent acquiescence in brutality of both major parties is interrupted only by cruel words.
Bad news can make us lose heart. It becomes all too hard. So Refugee Week is a time to gather heart and to look at the small things that bless the lives even of desperate people: the visits to detention centres, the supportive letters in the daily papers, the march for refugees that people in detention glimpse on the television news, the letters to politicians, the conversation that turns another person from problems to persons, the encouragement we give to people who have been in the struggle to treat asylum seekers humanly for the long haul.
These small things do not free people from detention, close Manus Island and Nauru as overseas prisons, nor change the minds of the majority of Australians who believe that we should punish asylum seekers in order to stop the boats. But in doing these things we dig the small channels that, when the weather changes and the rain comes, will irrigate the parched fields.
CAPSA is about these small things, the weeding of channels and building hope. We want to link Catholics together, especially those whose heart is open to people who seek protection. We exist so that you can share with others the small activities, celebrations and protests you have been involved in, to gather support for the initiatives you have taken, and to make robust the Catholic voice demanding compassion for people who seek protection.
We have also begun some small activities in Melbourne – providing refugees to speak to school and parish groups, arranging for school students to meet local members to discuss asylum seeker policy, organising a day for action in schools. You can read about these on our website: capsa.org.au
CAPSA is founded to encourage Catholics supporting people who seek protection. To be of good heart. Its motto is ‘we can’; its conviction is that though we may be weak singly, together we have strength to change the future.
Samuel Dariol – CAPSA Project Coordinator