Q & A with Sr Brigid Arthur: Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project

Sr Brigid.Parish Forum June 18 214Why is it important to bring together an alliance of Catholics on asylum-seeker issues?

Networking with likeminded people who will try and make a difference to this appalling situation with regards to asylum seekers is absolutely essential.  There are pockets of people all over the place, lots of well-intended people with good hearts who want to make a difference but we just haven’t got that coming together, we haven’t got a way to do it. So we need to talk with a united voice, a coalition is absolutely essential.

Why Catholics?

Catholics really do have an imperative. As part of the Gospel, we are called to stand up for these extremely vulnerable people.

What makes a difference to the lives of people seeking asylum?

There are two different ways of making a difference.

One way is making a difference to the people themselves who are suffering, they need someone to walk beside them and know that some people do care. The government might not appear to care but there are a number of people who do and that gives them some heart and makes a very big difference in their lives. From the other side we need people who will try to change minds, change policies, change regulations and change practices.

We need to concentrate on both.

What about the ‘politics’ of people seeking asylum?

I think a lot of MPs don’t know what to think. They swallow the party line because they think they have to, but there are a few people on both sides of politics who don’t do that and we need to give them the courage to say there is a line beyond which you can’t go even in supporting your party. What is happening is so bad that you really can’t hide behind what the party by saying they stand for.

Talking to MPs and Senators is important, particularly if we know even one asylum seeker, saying ‘I can’t rest easy even while one person is suffering given the trauma of their past and the uncertainty of their future and all that they are going through now’.

Focus on what you know and feel. Even if you haven’t met a refugee, simply say ‘From what I have read I feel appalled’ and if you know more then go on by all means, but use what you actually know and what you actually feel when speaking with MPs.