The gift of hospitality inviting the stranger to come in
By Sue Williams
for the Social Justice Task Force
The tide of public opinion is slowly changing on the issue of Asylum Seeker and Refugee policy in Australia as we witness a transformation in the way we respond to asylum seekers and refugees. Churches, communities, social justice groups, and passionate individuals together as a movement are shifting the conversation and getting people to choose compassion over fear. Australians from all walks of life are expressing their dismay and bewilderment at our government’s policies on asylum seekers. Doctors and nurses are refusing to send children back to detention. Cathedrals and churches across the country are offering “Sanctuary”, priests and nuns are peacefully protesting in MPs’ offices, mums and grandmothers, church leaders. All have said, “Enough is enough,” all are saying, “Not in our name”.
“Cathedrals and churches across the country are offering “Sanctuary”, priests and nuns are peacefully protesting in MPs’ offices, mums and grandmothers, church leaders – all have said enough is enough.”
Changing public opinion is always the most effective way to change policy and it seems there has now been a shift in people’s understanding of this issue. A recent poll in some marginal seats in NSW, Victoria and SA found that just 26% support the policy of sending all boat arrivals to offshore detention. The new poll has found that the majority of voters in key marginal electorates want the federal government to take a more compassionate approach to asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat. In further polling commissioned by the Australia Institute – the majority of respondents said they would like people assessed as refugees to be resettled in Australia. Yes, the tide is changing, but there is still a very long way to go.
What are you doing to change hearts and minds? Will you join the movement? #LoveMakesWay is just one movement of Christians seeking an end to Australia’s inhumane asylum seeker policies. It has grown from the hashtag of a single simple action to the largest faith-based civil disobedience movement in Australian history. Through #LoveMakesWay and the many other movements supporting a change to policy we are witnessing that together we can advocate, network and negotiate for asylum seekers and refugees, the least and the lost, demonstrating the Biblical principles of reaching out to our neighbour.
Jean Varnier, founder of the l’Arche communities, write, “Welcome is one of the signs a community is alive. To invite others to live with us is a sign that we aren’t afraid, that we have a treasure of truth and of peace to share.” He also offers an important warning: “A community which refuses to welcome – whether through fear, weariness, insecurity, a desire to cling to comfort, or just because it is fed up with visitors – is dying spiritually.” Welcome doesn’t require many resources. It does require a willingness to share what we have, whether food, time, space or money.
Are you willing to offer the gift of hospitality? Are you willing to invite the stranger in, to put into practice Jesus’ words from Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. . . .? Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Movements YOU can support or join:
- Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: www.acrt.com.au
- #Sanctuary: Facebook “Sanctuary for Refugees”
- #Give us a Sign: Facebook “Give Us A Sign” www.giveusasign.org
- #LoveMakesAWay: Facebook “Love Makes A Way” www.lovemakesaway.org.au
- #Let Them Stay: Facebook “Let Them Stay”
- #FreeTheRefugees: Facebook “Free The Refugees”
- #RefugeesWelcome: Facebook “Refugees Welcome”
- #ChangingTheTide: Facebook “Changing the tide”
- #RoomAtMyPlace: www.roomatmyplace.org
- #RefugeeWeek: Facebook “Refugee Week” www.refugeeweek.org.au
- Facebook “Walk for Justice for Refugees – Palm Sunday”
- #Bring them here