Aug 29

Melbourne Afghani familyLast night the meeting of the Nepean Presbytery heard about the difficulties asylum seekers face. It was encouraging to hear about things people are doing that truly make a difference.

Many people seeking asylum in Australia are put on bridging visa E while they are being processed. This means they have no access to health care, are not allowed concessions on public transport, and in particular are not allowed to work or study.

Imagine what would happen to your mental health if you were not able to work for 10 years even though you wanted to! Imagine the impact of boredom and despair!

Those who come to Australia seeking asylum (and are accepted) come here because things are untenable where they have come from. While we have heard some stories from Sri Lanka, so many stories remain untold because they are so atrocious.

If the stories are not told, our government may send people back to places of horror. This has happened to people from Sri Lanka in recent years. Hotham Mission uses some of their money to conduct research to help the Australian government see the plight of asylum seekers more clearly. They conducted a detailed survey of the situation in Sri Lanka and their report was recently adopted by the government as an accurate indication of what is happening there. This has reduced processing times from years down to months, and genuine refugees are not sent back to Sri Lanka.

This makes a huge difference to the well-being of asylum seekers. Once refugee status is granted they have rights like we do to medical care, concessions, work and study.

Hotham Mission reminds us that we can make a difference in some very simple ways. Donations of any size are welcome. A Met card for public transport makes a simple and ideal gift to those trying to survive on $100 per month. Phone cards make an enormous difference as well, because they allow people to keep in touch with family and friends. A commitment of $25 per week is enough to help an individual on a bridging visa E survive in Australia.

This week our gospel reading from Luke 14 records these words from Jesus:

… when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Asylum seekers certainly fit within the category of those who cannot repay us. Let us be moved by the generosity of Jesus, and find ways to be generous to those who have need.

Rev. Arnie

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