Hundreds of Catholic school students gather to call on the government to #BringThemHere

By Andy Hamilton SJ

About 200 students from 20 Victorian schools attended a Circle of Silence in solidarity with people seeking protection in Australia, particularly with those detained on Manus Island and Nauru. The event, held at Birrarung Marr, near Federation Square in Melbourne, was one of many involving school students around Australia.

Apart from the central half an hour of silence in which the participants stood in three large circles near the river bank, the participants heard talks from lawyer Julian McMahon on the reasons why off shore detention is both brutal and unnecessary, Sr Brigid Arthur on the harm done to people by excluding them from society and freedom indefinitely, and refugee spokesperson Jefry Yikwa on the hardships of coming to Australia and the joys of being welcomed. The event concluded with a blessing and the reiteration of the theme of the day: #BringThemHere.

Among the colourful banners and uniforms of the schools were those of the Ignatian schools, Xavier College Kew and of St Ignatius College Drysdale. Each school group was accompanied by teachers. The adults present expressed admiration at the way in which the young people could stand in silence for thirty minutes and understood so clearly why sentencing people to detention on Nauru and Manus Island is so harsh and needs changing.

The Circle of Silence was an initiative taken by Franciscan in Europe. The organiser of the Melbourne event, Samuel Dariol of Jesuit Social Services, said, ‘Through the Circle of Silence, Catholics for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) hopes to gather people to express solidarity with people who have suffered so much and have been treated so indecently. In this way we hope to build in the broader community the awareness and compassion that comes so naturally to school children. The response at Birrarung Marr was very gratifying.’