Bishop of Broken Bay Anthony Randazzo has urged the country’s leaders to take a compassionate approach to people who seek asylum and asked for prayers and advocacy for all who flee conflict and persecution.
In a video message for International Human Rights Day on 10 December, Bishop Randazzo, himself a son of migrants, said that the recent tragedy which saw 17 asylum seekers die in the English Channel showed that there is still much to be done to achieve equality and acceptance for all.
“After succumbing to a trade which preys on the vulnerable, they died in the rough and icy waters of the busiest shipping lane in the world,” he said.
“Words of shock and horror by political leaders quickly gave way to a war of words over responsibility, when human dignity should have been at the centre of the debate.”
In Australia, more could also be done to improve the country’s response to refugees, the bishop added.
“I appeal to our leaders, and everyone to appeal to those in leadership positions, to do their utmost to uphold the dignity of those seeking asylum; that their decisions and policies reflect genuine compassion, service, truth and justice,” he said.
“People seeking asylum in camps outside of Australia as well as those on our shores have faced years of uncertainty. The recent pandemic has also resulted in job losses, food shortages, evictions and overcrowded emergency accommodation.
“The mark of a truly free and just society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our community and those who desperately want to be part of our community.
“We don’t need to feed the fear and indifference to migrants.
“Following the Channel tragedy and his visit to a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, where thousands of families seek the chance of a new life, Pope Francis said the neglect of migrants is the shipwreck of civilisation. Is that the kind of civilisation we want?”
The bishop referred to the Church’s social organisations such as St Vincent de Paul Society, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aid to the Church in Need with their long history of serving the world’s poor and those in need.
“As missionary disciples, let us strive to reflect the words and deeds of Jesus, himself a refugee, in our hurting and often neglectful world today and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our endeavours,” Bishop Randazzo said.
After his 8 December recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis had spoken of his recent visit to Greece and Cyprus where he drew attention to the migrant crisis in both countries.
There he was able to “look into the eyes of this suffering” the Pope said.
“Please, let us look into the eyes of the discarded people we meet, let us be provoked by the faces of the children, children of desperate migrants. Let us allow ourselves to be drawn into their suffering in order to react to our indifference; let us look at their faces, to awaken us from the sleep of habit.”