Five Catholic bishops, including a bishop of Australia’s largest archdiocese, put their names to a public newspaper advertisement at the weekend calling on the Federal Government to give children in immigration detention “the gift of freedom” this Christmas.
Bishop Terry Brady, auxiliary bishop of Sydney, joined the Bishop of Wollongong, Bishop Peter Ingham, the Bishop of Port Pirie, Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Bill Wright, and the Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Heart, in signing the advertisement, sponsored by Catholic Religious Australia (CRA).
Declaring it to be “a critical moment in the history of this nation”, the advertisement called on all MPs to “do the right thing” and release “children and their families” from immigration detention.
Other signatories included the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier, and the President of the Uniting Church, Stuart McMillan, as well as the congregational leaders of some of Australia’s most prominent religious orders.
CRA Justice Network co-ordinator Fr Claude Mostowik MSC and Hillsong attendee Kylie Beach were among a group of eight Christians, including three ordained ministers, who began a peaceful sit-in at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s electoral office in Edgecliff on Monday.
The protest was ended five hours later when six of the protesters, including all three ministers, were arrested and removed from the premises.
The protesters were associated with the Love Makes a Way movement which claims to have been associated with more than 160 arrests in similar protests across Australia.
The protesters were calling on the government to accept recent Senate amendments that would see all children in immigration detention released, barring a specific court order to the contrary.
The amendments, moved by the Greens, would also usher in the mandatory reporting of abuse in detention centres and their greater openness to media, as well the reverse of the secrecy provisions which were the subject of medical and social worker protests earlier this year.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Fr Mostowik said the sit-in “is an invitation for Mr Turnbull to put a mark on the pages of Australian history, one that future generations will look back on as the moment our national shame began to end … he can start today by accepting the Senate amendments so that the 112 kids in Australian detention centres are given the ultimate Christmas gift – freedom from detention”.
The amendments passed with Labor support and the majority of the crossbench senators.
The CRA advertisement urged people to call on their local MP to vote for the release of children in immigration detention and their families.