Churches have stepped up their campaign to end Australia’s harmful refugee policies by offering sanctuary to 267 people including 37 babies, facing imminent removal to Nauru.
Refugee advocates had hoped for a change in the harsh and punitive government policies under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm), this has not eventuated.
The move will draw international attention to Australia’s inhumane refugee policies as news spreads through religious communities around the globe.
In a prepared statement (full text below), The Anglican Dean of Brisbane and Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce said:
This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take. Historically churches have afforded sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.
We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse.
This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us.
The ancient principle of sanctuary goes back to The Old Testament, and was enshrined in English Common Law. Where a state is causing grievous harm, churches can provide sanctuary and immunity from arrest by authorities. The legality of Sanctuary has never been tested under Australian law, nevertheless we are determined to apply its moral precepts and protect the most vulnerable from certain harm.
We join with many churches throughout Australia and the Australian Refugees Task-force in offering Gosford Anglican Church as a place of sanctuary for Asylum Seekers fleeing persecution by the Australian Government.
“The ancient principle of sanctuary goes back to The Old Testament, and was enshrined in English Common Law. Where a state is causing grievous harm, churches can provide sanctuary and immunity from arrest by authorities. The legality of Sanctuary has never been tested under Australian law, nevertheless we are determined to apply its moral precepts and protect the most vulnerable from certain harm.” Said Dr Peter Catt, Anglican Dean of Brisbane.
It is a cause of deep distress and shame that the Australian Government are persecuting vulnerable people for political gain. Given Godwin’s Rule of Nazi analogies I have always been cautious about drawing parallels between 1930’s Germany and modern Australia, but I now believe that it would be irresponsible to deny certain similarities.
Disclosure: Fr Bower is an occasional contributor to No Fibs.
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer for the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said:
Cathedrals that have offered to protect asylum seekers from deportation to a place where people face, rape, sexual assault, and unimaginable conditions, include: St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, St George’s Cathedral Perth, St David’s Cathedral Hobart and Christchurch Cathedral Darwin.
Many priests and vicars of local churches who feel compelled to provide the moral leadership
that their position requires, have also offered Sanctuary. These include: St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church; Darlington, WA; Perth Wesley Uniting Church; Gosford Anglican Church; Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide; St. John’s Uniting Church Essendon; Paddington Anglican Church, Pitt Street Uniting Church and the Wayside Chapel in Sydney. Many other churches have offered to support the Sanctuaries in various ways.
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs (@GillianTriggs), sent a serious of tweets today highlighting the harmful effects mandatory detention has on children, revealed in the report: The health and well-being of children in immigration detention.
A year since forgotten children report and children still suffering in detention
— Gillian Triggs (@GillianTriggs) February 3, 2016
Health and well-being of children in immigration detention report
NoFibs will follow and report this story as it develops.
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce statement.
LetThemStay – Churches offer Sanctuary to Asylum seekers facing deportation FINAL copy