As we move from Refugee Week to NAIDOC week, it’s fitting that we listen to Academics Mark Brett and Naomi Wolfe as they explore the roles of guest and host in the Australian context. This piece is an edited excerpt from a NAIITS Conference paper. The full paper will be published in the NAIITS Journal later in the year.
17 Australian Churches have offered sanctuary to the 267 people who face deportation to Nauru (including 70 children with 37 recently born in Australia) after the High Court's decision on the 3rd of February.
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Something deeply powerful is happening. Churches and cathedrals across Australia are making headlines by offering sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation to Nauru.
The profound moral leadership of these churches speaks to the core of our nation’s soul. Imagine if the culture of Australia could be transformed and led by Christian compassion, to be a place not of persecution but of sanctuary for people seeking asylum.
Right now, 267 vulnerable people risk deportation to Nauru, including about 37 babies who were born in Australia. In response, at least 17 churches have invoked the ancient Christian tradition of declaring themselves as Sanctuaries for people seeking asylum, and more churches continue to join.
The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt, said the risk of further harm to traumatised people "fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us."
As Christians, we know the power of finding sanctuary in God’s saving grace. Let’s transform Australia into a place of sanctuary for people seeking asylum.
What can you do?
- Add your support to those churches offering sanctuary in an open letter to the Prime Minister here
- As a creative action, you could also take a photo in front of the open doors of your church or home, as a symbol of welcome to refugees. Share the photo publicly with your message and the hashtag #LetThemStay.
- Join a rally next Monday evening across the country to show that you Stand with Sanctuary. Here you can find information on rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra.
- If your church is interested to offer sanctuary, please register with the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.